Harriet GliddonA new way to test for tuberculosis claimed the £5000 in this year's Institute of Global Health Innovation's Student Challenges Competition. 

Final year Imperial medical PHD student Harriet Gliddon impressed the judges at a Dragon’s Den event on 7 March with her idea to revolutionise tuberculosis (TB) testing. As well as the £5,000 first prize Harriet also took home the Audience Choice video award of £500. 

TB is now the joint leading cause of death worldwide due to an infectious disease, alongside HIV. Despite the need for early accurate testing to treat the disease and prevent new infections there is not a current test that is quick, easy to use and affordable. Harriet’s proposal uses nanomaterials to detect unique genetic barcodes for TB in the blood, which would enable earlier treatment and prevent further transmission.

Harriet said: “Winning is an amazing feeling and I am so glad I applied. The competition has helped me to think about how my work will fit into a real world context. The prize money will help me develop a prototype for my TB diagnostics test, which I hope will lead to transforming TB diagnostics worldwide. I am very grateful to IGHI and Imperial for the opportunity to be involved with the competition.”

James McIllroy, medical student at the University of Aberdeen, scooped the runner-up prize of £2,500 for his idea to combat the growing problem of Clostridium difficile (C.diff) infection in hospitals. C.diff is a bacterium that can infect the bowel and with over 125,000 cases annually, it is a major challenge for hospitals and healthcare professionals around Europe. James’ start-up company EuroBiotix CICis a social enterprise seeking to catalyse research into the microbiome and expand safe access to faecal transplantation through the provision of a stool donor bank.

 The Audience Choice Award of £1,000 went to Antonios Chronopoulos and Tyler Lieberthal for their project ExoSonic®, a novel microfluidics-based diagnostic device that uses sound waves to detect pancreatic cancer. 

Other entries covered a range of topics including Kapil Sahnan’s idea to use MRI and 3D modelling in managing perianal Crohn’s disease; Prem Chouhan, Hana Janebdar, Shaolin Liang, Paolo Cadinu and Denis Huen’s point-of-care blood group testing device called Instatype and Uddhav Vaghela’s novel idea of self-managing asthma with the aid of his smartphone app called Pulmonis.

The finalists pitched their ideas to three expert judges – Dr Richard Smith (IGHI Adjunct Professor, Chairman of Patients Know Best, Director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, former Editor of the British Medical Journal and Chief Executive of the BMJ Publishing Group), Nicole Mather (Director of the Office for Life Sciences, Department of Health and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) and Dr Maina Bhaman, (Director of Healthcare Ventures at Imperial Innovations).

Deputy Director of IGHI and Chair of the competition Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, said: “It was a fantastic event with a huge range of projects.  The competition truly demonstrates the breadth of global health research and innovation taking place not only at Imperial but across the whole of the UK. It engages students and by expanding the competition beyond Imperial, we hope to get more students applying and to see more great ideas coming through next year.”