TATA Trusts’ Foundation for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (FISE) have developed a high-tech portable Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner, a first ever in the country, designed to make MRI affordable and accessible for everyone. A team of highly talented engineers at Voxelgrids, an incubatee of Tata Trusts’ Foundation for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (FISE), have been able to achieve this radical innovation in 24 months.
This 1.5 Tesla whole-body MRI scanner will make MRI scans three to four times faster, compared to other scanners that are currently available in the market. The scanner is compact, extremely light-weight and consumes far less power.
These developments will reduce the cost of an MRI scan significantly and will expand the scope of diseases that MRI can be employed to diagnose. It will also enable the deployment of fully portable whole-body high field MRI scanners. This system can be mounted on a truck and taken to small towns in the remotest parts of the country, for real-time imaging of patients at the district level or even primary health centres.
Commenting on this development, Ratan N Tata, chairman, Tata Trusts, said, “Innovation and entrepreneurship require creativity, hard-work, and endurance to succeed. I am pleased that the MRI project team has demonstrated this. It also requires an enabling ecosystem to ensure that the most talented innovators are encouraged to take entrepreneurial risks and create positive social, economic and environmental impact.”
MRI is a completely safe Imaging modality as it is free of ionising radiation. It also provides exquisite tissue contrast that other imaging modalities like X-RAY and CT cannot. However, despite its strengths, there are practical issues that limit the modality’s impact and reach. The current state-of-the-art MRI scanners are bulky and expensive. This makes MRI unaffordable and inaccessible for a large population. Furthermore, the Imaging process itself is slow and an MRI scanner’s ability to image moving organs, such as the human heart, is limited. As a result, the role of MRI in diagnosing cardiac disease, one of the top causes of death today, is inadequate. This whole-body MRI scanner aims to address these limitations.
Voxelgrids has been supported by Tata Trusts’ Foundation for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (FISE) from development to introduction of the MRI scanner. FISE promotes socially relevant innovations and entrepreneurship with a mission to create large-scale sustainable social impact. FISE engages with entrepreneurs throughout their product lifecycle stages, providing critical incubation and mentorship support.
The project won the prestigious Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) award in 2017 while it was still under development. Bangalore based Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences is the clinical partner for the development, where the first system has been installed.