We love a good fair that incorporates STEM and makers (examples include Re:Make + Maker Faire) because they introduce us to new, cutting-edge ideas that we may have never thought of before. We’ve had our eyes on the Google Science Fair each year, and 2015’s fair provided a grand prize winner that could truly revolutionize one of the scariest and deadliest diseases, Ebola.
16-year-old Connecticut teen Olivia Hallisey beat out 22 other teenagers to take home the grand prize (a $50,000 scholarship) for her project, the Temperature-Independent, Portable and Rapid Detection of Ebola Via a Silk-Derived Lateral-Flow System. Wordy name, but her project is without a doubt going to change the way we are able to detect and diagnose Ebola.
How so? Let’s start with the current state of Ebola testing affairs. The methods used for diagnosing the deadly disease involve a lot of complexities, time and money. For example, with Olivia’s project Ebola testing would only cost $25 as opposed to today’s $1,000. Also, results would be determined in half an hour versus today’s 12 hour standard. Olivia’s Ebola project is making those changes happen by creating a “’stable and stored at room temperature’ temperature-independent Ebola Assay Card (EAC), which utilizes the stabilizing properties of silk fibroin to “break the cold chain” and allow for water-activated detection of Ebola antigens, with detection limits that are analogous to current sandwich ELISA techniques. The EAC provides rapid, inexpensive, accurate detection of Ebola viral antigens based on color change within 30 minutes in individuals prior to their becoming symptomatic and infectious.”
Olivia’s secret ingredient, silk, could very well alter the way we diagnose Ebola, resulting in earlier detection and more lives saved. Way to go Olivia! Check out more about her project, as well as the nearly two dozen other teen projects on the Google Science Fair website.
What are your thoughts about Olivia’s Ebola tester? Share them with us in the comments.