Thursday, January 28, 2021

5-minute home kidney health test wins three uni awards

For Macquarie University's Sumedha Prabhu, kidney healthcare is an issue with a personal connection.

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sumedha prabhu, phd student at macquarie university

Imagine summarising a 100,000 word thesis in just three minutes, compiling years of research for an audience with no scientific background. For Sumedha Prabhu from one of the 900 universities taking part in the competition, the ‘3 Minute Thesis’ (3MT) came as a welcome challenge.

The PhD student came out on top at Macquarie University, winning three awards for her unique diagnostic device for kidney healthcare from home. 

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“My project came in third place in the School of Engineering, but I won the People’s Choice Award from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the university,” she told Indian Link excitedly. “There was a lot of competition and it feels great for my work to be recognized.”

Created with her thesis advisor Prof. Subhas Mukhopadhyay, Sumedha’s smart sensing device utilises one drop of blood to detect a patient’s creatinine levels, and sends the data through the Internet to a website where your doctor can sign in and see the results.

READ ALSO: Indian wins award at prestigious FameLab science contest

In 2018, over 200,000 Australians had kidney disease. Pending the Human Ethics clearance and necessary modifications to make it commercially available in the future, her prototype device aims to assist three kinds of patients.

“It will be useful for kidney healthcare management to avoid any side effects of people on specific drug treatments like chemotherapy. It can be used by patients with existing conditions like diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, or congenital (birth defect) kidney diseases. And it can also help patients with past medical histories or chronic diseases to check and maintain their creatinine levels,” she explained.

During the pandemic, when cities are in lockdown and patients with reduced immunity responses are recommended to stay indoors, her device has become more important than ever.

“Instead of making an appointment, visiting the doctor, getting the blood test, and waiting to hear back from the pathologist for two days or so, this device shows results in 5 to 10 minutes,” Sumedha said with a smile.

READ ALSO: Coming soon: A simple diagnostic blood test for breast cancer

Sumedha with her pet Goru

Almost 3 years in development, her prototype addresses the importance of kidney healthcare, an issue of a personal nature for the biomedical engineering student.

“My mother has hypertension and she has developed severe kidney issues over time. Thankfully, she’s on regular medication now and things are better. Unfortunately, a dear member of the family, my 14-year-old dog Goru who was like my brother, passed away from kidney issues in 2017,” she revealed. “It inspired me to use my background in biotechnology to work towards solutions for my own loved ones.”

As the winner of two People’s Choice awards from the university, she has received a lot of good feedback and well-wishes from students and staff at Macquarie who voted for her project. For this, she credits her thesis advisor Prof. Subhas Mukhopadhyay.


“He was very supportive and was there to help at every stage. He really encourages students to do their best,” she said humbly.

A self-confessed workaholic, Sumedha admits that she spends seven days a week in the lab working on her project. This makes receiving the 3MT awards just a little sweeter.

“Even the security guard met me on Sundays in the lab and asked if I ever go home!”

READ ALSO: A simple key to open doors safely

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Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath is a writer, editor, and content creator based in Sydney. She was nominated for Young Journalist of the Year 2020 (Premier's Multicultural Media Awards)

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