Winner 2013 Gabrielle Prager, a fifth year medical student at Imperial scooped the £5,000 prize money for her work on improving the diagnosis of schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease. 

Gabrielle and the other three finalists pitched their ideas to three high-level judges - IGHI’s Executive Chair and former CEO of Marie Curie Cancer Care, Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett; former Chief Executive of NHS London Dame Ruth Carnall and Chair of the Trustee Board of Imperial’s Student Union, Professor Dame Julia Higgins (pictured above)

Candidates were judged on how their project helps to improve health around the world; how innovative it is and on how they would go on to use the prize money to develop a prototype or the next stage of research.

Gabrielle’s project focused on a new diagnostic technique for schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic flatworms which leads to chronic infection and affects over 200 million people worldwide. Schistosomiasis control through mass treatment using the medication praziquantel is progressing rapidly.  However, current diagnostic methods based on detecting the worms’ eggs by microscopy have limited sensitivity, being particularly unreliable at low infection intensities.  More sensitive diagnostics are desperately needed, explained Gabrielle, for both the identification of communities in need of drug treatment and the monitoring of treatment success.

The £5,000 prize money will help her to ascertain whether a new technique to detect the parasite’s DNA might offer increased sensitivity, resulting in more accurate diagnosis and hopefully, less false positives. 

Other entries covered a range of topics, including an online resource to tackle non-communicable disease, a workshop for health workers in West Africa to examine palliative care in the Gambia and a high-level symposium for world-leading experts to discuss practical ways to combat climate change.

Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Chair of the judge’s panel and Deputy-Director of IGHI, said: “The competition provided an excellent opportunity for Imperial students to showcase their research of international relevance. It was a difficult decision for us to choose a winner, as all the projects offered innovative approaches to tackling important global health issues. Gabrielle’s project stood out the most and we look forward to hearing from her next year on how the prize money has helped with her research into this deeply debilitating disease”. 

Gabrielle Prager, winner of Student Challenges 2013 said “We all hope to be able to recognise the moment when what we have learned becomes what we do - to turn theory into practice.  The Institute of Global Health Innovation Student Challenges Competition is a platform that allowed me to consider what we saw as a need in terms of a solution. It encouraged me to apply the scientific work I was doing under the guidance of Dr. Gower and Dr. Lamberton in a pragmatic and constructive way. Innovation, for me, meant adding to the effort to find a new way to solve an existing diagnostic problem in order to deliver a positive healthcare outcome. I am absolutely delighted to have won the competition and hope I'll be able to achieve the promise of innovation which the prize will allow me to pursue.”

For more information on the competition and to find out how to enter Student Challenges 2014, contact ighi@imperial.ac.uk

Find out more 

  • Read Gabrielle's blog article on her journey through the competition. 
  • See the photos here.
 
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