Saturday, January 12, 2013

The blue pill - 6

(This is the sixth part of the short story The Blue Pill. You can find the entire story here.)

Dr. Roy's entire team was at work in a week. Though the primary application of the device was in nephrology, developing such a device needed the expertise of many disciplines. Among the team were a Chemist, a Fluid Mechanics Engineer, a Materials Scientist and a Mass Transport Scientist. Together, they contributed to different aspects of the device, working on the design under Dr. Roy.

Karl Torrance seemed very interested in the development of the device. He would review the plan with Dr. Roy every week on Monday morning. Dr. Roy would update him about what was done the previous week, what the plans were for this week and about any roadblocks or issues the team was having.

One thing Dr. Roy realized was the way large corporations in the US work was very different from his small, little team in Kolkata. It did not surprise him. He understood that in companies such as this, there would be a number of processes to make sure things move smoothly. However, he would get frustrated at times with the delays these processes would cause.

For conducting one particular test on the device, the team needed a small quantity of a particular chemical. It was to simulate a certain solute in the blood. Dr. Roy sent an email to the procurement department. For about a week, he did not hear anything. On sending a reminder, he got a response saying that they have just got quotes from multiple vendors and were in the process of finalizing the order. Dr. Roy was appalled. Quotes? For this quantity? He immediately dashed off an email to Torrance.

Torrance responded after a couple of hours saying that even he could not overrule processes that have worked for years now and requested him to be patient. Dr. Roy had no choice but to wait.

By and large, however, development on the device was going smoothly except for such minor delays that were mainly due to the nature of the environment. Dr. Roy told his team that in a company like this, there would be such issues and they would have to learn to live with it. The team understood. They had been a part of the struggle that Dr. Roy had undergone. The resource crunch, the lack of funds, the frustrating wait for grants, they had been a part of all this.

They remembered the day Dr. Roy had called them all to his room. He was looking so sad. It was like he had lost everything. He had called them to announce that the team was being disbanded as he had no funds to continue development on the device. They were all so shocked. They had breathed this device for the past so many months. And now it was all going to end. Everyone continued to come to the lab however. About a week after the meeting, Dr. Roy managed to get a grant of Rs. 1 crore from a foundation in Chennai that provided subsidized dialysis to the needy. They had been following Dr. Roy's work and got in touch with him and arranged the grant.

This breathed a lease of life into the project. However, the money would soon be exhausted. They would need a much stronger power to be able to take this device to fruition. That was when the whole Babylon thing happened. They realized that this was the only option they had to bring the device to the patients. They realized that innovation cannot breathe without the power of money. They would need more money, much more money to have any hope of their hard work reaching the intended beneficiaries.

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