Dr Sudesh Sivarasu
Founder, UCT Medical Devices Lab
Dr Sudesh Sivarasu is a senior lecturer in biomedical engineering and the founder of the Medical Devices Lab in the faculty of health sciences at the University of Cape Town. He has a PhD in biomedical engineering and won the NSTF-TW Kambule Award for an Emerging Researcher in 2016 and has won 11 other awards, both locally and internationally, thanks to his work in medical devices.
“I always wanted on work on something which would benefit mankind,” says Sivarasu. “Being in a field where engineering marries health sciences — biomedical engineering — I know that if I do something right, someone will benefit one day. And seeing the ideas I have conceived becoming a reality, and patients benefitting from them, has given me an immense sense of accomplishment.”
Sivarasu conceptualised and trademarked Frugal Biodesign, a novel process that allows for the innovation of medical devices in resource-restricted areas. Today, he has more than 18 patent families and more than 37 peer-reviewed journal publications. He also has more than 30 conference publications to his credit. He, along with the members of his medical devices lab, have invented several medical devices: the Smart Leprosy Glove, Laxmeter, reScribe, pMDI Sleeve, Zibipen, Ptosis Crutch, Pat-Rig, Flexygn are a few to highlight.
When asked to explain his work, he says: “In simple terms, I design medical devices. Technologies that clinicians can use to deliver affordable healthcare. One day I would like developing countries like South Africa to have a 0% medical device import — against the current 90% import which places a huge burden on taxpayers money. I want to create a self-sustainable medical device industry in South Africa.”
For Sivarasu, one of the biggest challenges he has had to overcome is tackling the status quo to achieve his goals. Traditional academia that’s focused on producing scientific papers wasn’t close enough to what he wanted to do — product development — so he’s had to find a space between the two.
“Feeling a purpose and maintaining a positive mindset is essential to overcoming any barrier,” he concludes. “The world can be quite challenging in all departments of life, but never give up. Work smart, know your limitations and believe that you can make a difference in whichever field you desire to be.”
— Tamsin Oxford