While putting the country at ease with a ready arsenal, former President and Missile Man APJ Abdul Kalam also explored how defence or aerospace technology could be applied to save lives.
Introduced in 1998, light-weight calipers for the polio-affected was such a concept. It was a brainchild of Kalam, when he was the director of Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) in Hyderabad, and BN Prasad, then head of orthopedics at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences. The calipers were made of glass-filled polypropylene, used in missiles — reducing their weight from four kilogram to 400 grams, providing relief to users.
“When Prasad left NIMS, I inherited the project but doubted the design and its applicability. But Kalam persuaded us to continue. I am glad I was proved wrong,” Dr L Narendranath, orthopedist and director, NIMS, told HT.
The calipers were then priced at an affordable Rs 350. Till date, over 30,000 people have benefitted from them.
This synergy between missile and medical science also resulted in a stent that significantly brought down heart-care costs in India.
The Kalam-Raju stent (named after the former President and Dr B Soma Raju, a cardiologist), which came out in 1994, was made from surgical-grade stainless steel provided by MIDHANI (Mishra Dhatu Nigam, a public sector undertaking) in Hyderabad.
Initially priced at Rs 10,000 against the imported one at Rs 90,000, it helped lower the market price to Rs 25,000-Rs30,000, benefiting nearly a thousand people.
The Kalam-Raju stent paved the way for production of new-generation stents in India.