Co-founder & CEO of DATRI Blood Stem Cell Donors – Providing a Lifeline through Blood Stem Cells
Raghu Rajagopal is a successful entrepreneur with a few ventures in the US and in India and is now co-founder of a social enterprise that he believes will make a world of difference for patients with life-threatening blood disorders such as Leukemia.
An alumnus of BITS-Pilani, in Engineering Technology, Raghu was into software development and software consulting, in the US. He was involved in three entrepreneurial ventures – an e-business services company, a product company, and a BPO.
A charter member of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), Raghu became aware of the potential of peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation to treat patients with blood cancer while he was in the US. He had participated in donor drives to create awareness about donating blood stem cells. For a patient, there is only a 25 percent probability of finding a genetic match from within the family. The rest have to depend on unrelated blood stem cell donors from a registry.
Raghu, who returned to India in 2005, realized the need for a functional unrelated blood stem cell donors registry. He along with Dr. Nezih Cereb and Dr. Soo Young Yang, founders of Histogenetics, a laboratory that specializes in HLA typing, envisioned an Indian registry for blood stem cell donors. Thus was born DATRI, a Sanskrit word that means donor.
Raghu has been very active in the entrepreneurial eco-system in the US and India. He is also actively involved in ‘The Green Peppers’, a Millet based food company that specializes in healthy food options. He is the Head of Global Strategy for ‘Ivy Mobility’, a mobile solutions company that is a leader in the FMCG and the Pharmaceuticals vertical. Raghu is also the Managing Trustee for Punarjanmam Foundation that helps flood-affected individuals and organizations. This organization has helped over 75 families who were affected by the 2015 flood in Chennai. He is mentoring several start-ups as an advisor.
Raghu is passionate about cancer-cure and was geared to address the challenges faced by people of Indian origin who were suffering from fatal blood disorders including Leukemia and Thalassemia. He was an active volunteer in a US donor search campaign for one of his friend’s fiancé with an Indo-Pakistan genetic makeup to find a life-saving match. The probability of finding a match for Asian patients suffering from serious blood disorders is as low as 2%. There are over 1,00,000 patients with fatal blood disorders in India alone. This stirred up the urgent need for a functional registry in the country. Realising the importance, along with Dr. Nezih Cereb, President and Co-Founder of Histogenetics, a State-of-the-Art Lab specialized in HLA Typing, and Dr. Soo Young Yang, Chairman, and Founder of Histogenetics, Raghu set up DATRI, a not for profit organization in the year 2009.
Today, DATRI is the largest blood stem cell donors registry in India with over 1,85,000 potential donors and has facilitated 231 donations as of Feb 2017.
DATRI was recently awarded the Best Healthcare NGO by the World CSR committee.
The journey was not easy, Raghu and the organization face various challenges at every step. There were or have a team member with a medical background. Most of the Doctors he would meet would dissuade him as they felt that such Registry required a specialized setup with qualified medical professionals backing it.
With a strong conviction, Raghu started DATRI in 2009 all alone on the field working towards saving lives of patients suffering from Blood Cancer and Thalassemia. Though he knew the challenges that awaited him, he was determined to make this work. Educating donors and even doctors were the most challenging task and it took over 24 months to get 10,000 donors registered with DATRI.
Raghu recalls the first Donor who Raghu personally convinced to donate his blood stem cells and gift a life to a 12-year-old boy, was indeed the first breakthrough for the NGO. Since then there has been a progressive growth in terms of awareness and acceptance.
From a single man to a team of 3 in the first year it was indeed a very slow start but with perseverance and conviction, Raghu has been able to help gift lives to over 200 patients. Today with a growing family of 58 employees and over 30 volunteers, DATRI is becoming a life-changing organization for many patients worldwide.
It was a proud moment for DATRI, India’s largest adult unrelated blood stem cell donors registry, as they facilitated their 100th donation for this year to mark World Marrow Donor Day 2018 (WMDD).