Principle Investigator, Science and Technology Consultant, Consulting Assistant Professor
K|RITH (KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV); Stanford University; TED
Frederick Balagadde: Bio-lab on a microchip View talk on TED.com »
K-RITH Investigator, Dr. Frederick Balagaddé will establish a bioengineering research program that will leverage the power of microfluidics to multiply the output of clinical and laboratory technologists. Using specially designed microfluidic chips, technologists will be able to perform hundreds and thousands of diagnostics tests (or experimental measurements) simultaneously.
05/01/2008 – present
This project seeks to leverage microfluidics technology in the creation of low-cost disease diagnostics solutions for the Third World.
Dr. Frederick Balagadde is an Assistant Investigator at K-RITH—the new Africa site of Howard Hughes Medical Institute—located in Durban, South Africa. At K-RITH (short for KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV), Dr. Balagadde heads an independent, bioengineering research program aimed at leveraging the power of microfluidics large scale integration (MLSI) to multiply the output of clinical and laboratory scientists. Using specially designed microfluidic chips, the bioengineering program at K-RITH is working on low-cost, sample-in-answer-out diagnostic tools and high-throughput research platforms to address HIV and TB pathogenesis. This in turn will enable scientists to perform hundreds and thousands of diagnostics tests (or experimental measurements) simultaneously at low cost—a strategic initiative aimed at bridging the health resource gap in the developing world. As part of this vision, in December 2009, he was one of 20 individuals selected to comprise the inaugural class of the TED Senior Fellowship program. TED (or Technology Entertainment and Design) is a global network of the some of the world’s most innovative minds, determined to amplify the power of other ‘visionaries-in-the-making’ through its fellowship program. Prior to this, he worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a research scientist in the Engineering Technologies Division from 2007 to 2010. In July of 2010 he joined Stanford University as a consulting assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and embarked on an entrepreneurial odyssey involving the development of microfluidics technology towards low-cost disease diagnostic devices for the Developing World. He received his PhD in Applied Physics in 2007 from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) located in Pasadena, California. In 2005, he developed the microchemostat–the first implementation of a microfluidic chip that cultures live bacterial cells in perpetuity. This seminal work, which was published in the Journal Science and featured on National Public Radio–a syndicated news network of 900 public radio stations in the United States–enabled discoveries about biological circuits that eluded detection in conventional settings. Dr. Balagadde also has experience in business intelligence gained through broad-based consulting roles at Strategic Business Insights (SBI)—an international consulting firm based in Menlo Park, California.
Grilled New York strip steak (well done) served with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy; rounded off with a Caesar salad containing some raisins and Parmesan cheese. Please include a glass of sweet red wine.
A funny story about me:
It's about 9pm and I have just left King Shaka International airport (near Durban, South Africa) in a rental Honda Jazz. The dark stormy skies above are punctuated by vivid spidery displays of lightning and thunderous roars. I am rushing to get to St. Anne's guest house, where I will be spending the rest of the night. Suddenly, I am flagged by a gentleman cloaked in what appears to be law enforcement uniform. I immediately pull over to the side of the road and anxiously await my speeding ticket verdict, as is customary in the USA, from where I have come. The man walks to the passenger side of the car but to my utmost astonishment, instead of giving me a speeding ticket, he calmly opens the passenger door, helps himself into the passenger seat, closes the door and tells me to drive towards Durban. Unbeknownst to me at the time, law-enforcement-like reflector jackets in South Africa can be bought (and worn) by anyone for just a few dollars in any local store. Understand that my stranger had a bit of a stammer and therefore when he finally managed to blurt out the words “GO TO DURBAN!”, it felt more like an order than a polite request. In just a few seconds, I have gone from feeling very safe inside my car to feeling very, very unsafe, trapped with a stranger inside my car, in a country that is notorious for highway robberies! By now, my mind is spinning with a thousand thoughts a minute: is he going to pull out a gun next, strip me naked and tell me to get out of the car? or will he ask me to drive to a secluded place and shoot me? didn't I know better not to give rides to strangers? how did this even happen? can I politely ask him to get out of the car?... or will this instead infuriate him to definitely carry out a nefarious plan, that he might otherwise have abandoned out of sympathy? You dummy… you let yourself get caught, I said to myself! What were you thinking! But it had all happened within the blink of an eye. I drove towards Durban without exchanging a single word with my stranger. During that time, I was busy saying what I thought would be my last prayers. About 30 minutes later, he ordered me to pull to the side of the road. Then, he got out of the car, said thank you and disappeared into the night. I was very happy to be alive.