John Chetwood, a fifth year medical student at the College, was awarded the 2012 prize after presenting to a panel of judges that was Chaired by Sir Liam Donaldson, former Chief Medical Officer and included Sarah Brown, President of PiggybankKids and Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance; and Jane Dreaper, BBC health correspondent.
The winning project used urinary biomarkers to create a new diagnostic tool to detect Cholangiocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer that affects the bile ducts, and is caused by the parasitic worm liver-fluke. John used NMR spectroscopy to identify liver cancer in Thai patients and to distinguish between healthy controls and infected populations.
Another finalist and fellow medical student, Yu-Jeat Chong, was highly commended for his project which used satellite technology to monitor salinity in drinking water – a growing concern due to climate change.
Sir Liam Donaldson announced the winner and presented the award after delivering his talk on polio in the Institute’s second annual lecture.
Sir Liam Donaldson, chair of the judges’ panel said:
“The competition was a fantastic opportunity for Imperial students to showcase their research more widely. As chair of the judge’s panel, I thought the quality and range of the projects were of a very high standard. It was a difficult decision for us to choose a winner as all the projects offered innovative approaches to tackling important global health issues. In the end, two projects stood out due to their potential global health impact, with the winning candidate having the edge but we hope all the students can find ways to pursue their innovative research.”
Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, deputy chair of the Institute said:
“It’s the first time we have run a competition of this type and we hope it becomes a recurring feature of the Institute’s contribution to addressing global health challenges at Imperial. We have a wealth of talented students who are passionate about improving the health of people around the world. The competition not only gives them a chance to improve their communications skills but also present their work to a wider audience. We look forward to seeing how John’s project develops further, and to receiving the submissions for next year’s competition.”
John Chetwood, winner of the 2012 student challenges competition, said:
“I’m extremely pleased to win the first Institute of Global Health Innovation student challenges competition, particularly as I had to rush back from playing hockey at Varsity to compete for the prize. It was very exciting to present my project to such high-profile judges, and such an award validates the emerging role global health is playing in international research. Imperial has one of the largest cohorts with chronic liver disease in the country and is an extremely reputable hepatobiliary research centre - and as such I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to work in such an institution and with such distinguished experts.
I’m looking forward to working on developing my project further. One option we have is to create a urine dipstick which can detect the presence of the cancer early and accurately – which could have enormously implications worldwide but especially to people in South East Asia where liver-fluke associated cancer is more common than appendicitis. Such a cheap and easy method has the potential to save many lives.”