‘One life saved is huge, but I know it can be far more than that’

| February 24, 2017

Deepika Bodapati’s low-cost, blood imaging device Athelas has already saved the lives of patients with early-stage leukemia

Deepika Bodapati created Athelas to detect malaria from a single drop of blood. It’s now become a life saving solution for potential millions. Photo/ George Sampson

Deepika Bodapati

’17 Bachelors of Science, Biomedical Engineering

Project: Athelas, a low-cost, portable blood-imaging device

Mission: to radically change the way diseases are diagnosed and prevented

Bay Area born and raised, I spent most of my childhood playing in labs, at science fairs, or doing speech and debate. I loved them all and made some of my best friends on the debate and science fair circuit. They were the first people I looked to when I decided to start Athelas my sophomore year. Together with my partner, Tanay Tandon, we built a low-cost, portable blood-imaging device that uses computer vision, machine learning and microscopy to diagnose medical conditions automatically. Think of it as a sophisticated test strip used to test for malaria, anemia, flu virus and even early signs of leukemia from a single drop of blood. Now think of the millions of people who don’t have access to a medical lab or at-risk populations (people with Down Syndrome, undergoing Chemotherapy, MDS, and other immunocompromising illnesses). For them, this test can be life-saving. These days we’re deploying Athelas through select hospitals for trials. On a fun note, I am trained in Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form and still remember the desperate balance of excitement and focus right before a performance. I published a few papers at Stanford and have a few patents under my belt, but mostly I just really like hacking together new things. I believe companies fail when they stop innovating and focus on peripheral metrics. The key is making devices that can do more, faster, cheaper, and more intelligently than anything else ever built.

In her own words

Deepika wants to radically transform health care. Listen how:

My mantra: Discipline is freedom

Proudest Moment: when we were able to flag a previously undiagnosed leukemia patient and accelerate her treatment. That just really stuck with me.

I do what I do because: I have this incredible opportunity to build whatever I want to build while simultaneously helping people.

Mentor: Dr. Michelle James and my brother

Perfect Day: morning run, post up at a book store for a few hours, a meal with extended family, crank some work out with the team, and a full 8 hours of sleep.

Soundtrack to my life: G-Eazy’s “Let’s Get Lost”

Greatest failure: it happened in high school. I was quickly mixing some chemicals and spilled some on the lab floor. I tried to clean it up and the stain was getting bigger and bigger. The pigment was so potent that it clung to my shoes and I had to put gloves on my shoes to prevent it from tracking everywhere. I got in a lot of trouble.

If I weren’t an engineer, I’d be: a researcher, focusing on immunotherapy treatments

My alarm: I wake up as soon as the sun comes up. It’s a double edged sword

Indulgence: a Nutella banana strawberry crepe at Coupa Café on University Ave

My inspiration: parents, brother, uncles, aunts, cousins – a bunch of badasses!

Trojan Memory: Every Tuesday at 10 pm, my friends and I would wait for the kogi truck to come to the edge of campus and we would picnic by the church and eat there

Tools of the trade: tape — its so much more versatile than you’d imagine, then whiteboards, and definitely an eraser

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