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India Launches Affordable Next-Gen MRI Scanner

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India’s first indigenously developed, affordable, lightweight, ultrafast, high-field (1.5 Tesla) next-generation Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scanner has been launched by the Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science and Technology, Jitendra Singh.

According to Singh, the combination of next-generation hardware with software has enabled the successful introduction of this highly disruptive product in the diagnostic imaging space. The scanner was developed under a public-private partnership.

MRI technology has seen significant advancements, including the development of higher field strengths, faster imaging sequences, and improved software algorithms for image reconstruction and analysis. These advancements have contributed to enhanced image quality, reduced scan times, and improved overall patient experience.

The new domestically made scanner is a significant milestone for the National Biopharma Mission (NBM), the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Singh noted.

With the availability of the indigenous MRI scanner, the cost of MRI scanning will significantly decrease, making it more accessible to the public who would otherwise find these scans to be highly priced. Approximately 70% of the global population lacks access to MRI for diagnostic purposes. When compared to other imaging modalities like CT, X-ray, and Ultrasound, the availability of MRI scanners is usually three times lower. The reason is prohibitively high capital costs, which is a problem in developing countries like India.

This development will also lead to a reduction in the capital investment required to procure MRI scanners from the international market, saving a considerable amount of foreign exchange. These outcomes align with the overall goal of the current government to achieve self-reliance (Atmanirbharta) in cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic manufacturing in India, Singh claimed. India is rapidly transitioning from being a mere consumer of technology to becoming an innovator, he said.

Presently, the annual demand for MRI machines is less than 350 units. However, due to increasing awareness and various government initiatives aimed at improving healthcare access and inclusiveness, such as the flagship Ayushman Bharat initiative, it is anticipated that the annual demand will more than double by 2030.

India aims to tackle several challenges by introducing the MRI scanner, which is more affordable compared to machines in the market currently. This achievement also opens the possibility of sharing the technology with other nations in the global south, helping them gain access to affordable and reliable medical imaging solutions.

Rajesh Gokhale, DBT Secretary, highlighted the significant efforts made by the department in bolstering the biopharma sector, with a particular focus on the devices and diagnostics ecosystem in India. He mentioned that the National Biopharma Mission plays a crucial role in expediting India’s technological and product development capabilities in various areas, including vaccines, biotherapeutics (including biosimilars), medical devices, and diagnostics. It is instrumental in driving advancements and innovations in healthcare and biotechnology.

NBM was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in May 2017. It was designed in alignment with the Make in India and Start-up India initiatives. It also aims to take forward the commitments made by DBT in the National Biotechnology Development Strategy. The Mission aims to transform the health standards of the country through affordable product development.


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