Able Talk

PROF. V KUMARAN

Prof. V Kumaran is a senior professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). Prof. Kumaran has been carrying out research on many topics in the areas of fuid mechanics and statistical mechanics.

Point-of-Care devices may not have a significant cost benefit in urban areas but they do have an advantage in providing access to the rural population

Background

Prof. V Kumaran is a senior professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). Prof. Kumaran has been carrying out research on many topics in the areas of ?uid mechanics and statistical mechanics. He is the recipient of The Infosys Prize 2016 in Engineering and Computer Science for his work in complex fluids and complex flows and especially in transition and turbulence in soft-walled tubes and channels. His work is of high practical utility in cardiovascular and pulmonary health. His work, characterized by high quality applied mathematics and theoretical physics combined with innovative experiments and simulation, has been translated into innovative technologies for lab-on-a-chip devices for point-of-care diagnostics.

The interview was done by ABLE’s external content contributor, Anusha Ashwin, under the guidance of Senior Editorial Consultant to ABLE, Srinivas Rao Chandan. Excerpts of the interview …

Prof. Kumaran: The prospect of shrinking all the functions of a diagnostic lab onto a small chip was first raised about 15-20 years ago. At that time, the prospect was considered to be eminently feasible, when the first devices such as blood glucose meters became commercially available. However, it was soon realized that there are technological barriers for realizing more complicated testing protocols which involved sample preparation steps. It was at this point that I realized that some of the work we were doing could be of importance in surmounting these technological barriers.

  • eN-ABLE: Could you explain about your association with the start-up MicroX Labs?

Prof. Kumaran: I was associated as technical advisor with this start-up, which was incubated at the Society of Innovation and Development at the Indian Institute of Science.

  •  eN-ABLE: What was the initial theory behind lab-on-chip?

Prof. Kumaran: The initial idea was to shrink all the functionalities of a full-fledged diagnostic lab on to a chip the size of a credit card. All the fluid pumping, reagent mixing, measuring and sensing would be fit onto this card of small size.

  •  eN-ABLE: Can the lab-on-chip fulfil all diagnostic capabilities of an analytical diagnostic instrument?

Prof. Kumaran: If the challenges in sample preparation and mixing at small scales are surmounted, it is possible to technologically realize all the diagnostic capabilities on a chip of small size. However, an important consideration is cost. In mass-produced POC devices, the cost of a cartridge needs to be less than the cost of a diagnostic test in a laboratory. Currently, micro-fabrication is very expensive and requires large machines. So, manufacturability at large scale is also an important consideration for commercial success.

  •  eN-ABLE: What can this chip diagnose?

Prof. Kumaran: IISc does have collaborations with universities in India and abroad. Typically, a single product utilizes multiple technology platforms such as sample preparation, sensing and electronic signal processing, and this expertise are available at widespread locations. So, we do approach the experts in the relevant areas to complement the expertise that we have.