A team of Imperial students have been commended for developing a lateral flow test to detect norovirus in food.
Team ALFT - Edward Wu (Bioengineering), Zhanqing Hua (Life Sciences) and Yiming Huang (Life Sciences) - took home the top prize of £7,000 at this year’s final of the Faculty of Natural Sciences’ Make a Difference competition (FoNS-MAD) for their proposal to help control outbreaks of the virus more quickly.
The competition, which was open to all undergraduate students from across the College, gives teams the resources to develop low-cost technologies that will have a positive impact on society.
"For students who would like to give FoNS-MAD a shot in 2023, we would say don’t be nervous and don't let the fact that you might be a fresher stop you from taking part." Team AFLT
Finalists took part in an 8-week funded lab placement over the summer to help them to develop their ideas to the proof-of-concept stage. They presented a summary of their findings to a VIP panel of experts at the final event in late October.
This year's VIP panel included Imperial experts Professor Lord Robert Winston and Professor Sir John Pendry, alongside College alumnus Dr Ruth Allan, Dominique Kleyn and Dr Allan Samuel.
Team AFLT member Edward Wu said that the idea for the project initially came from seeing a public fridge that had broken down and wondering how you could rapidly test if the food inside was safe to eat.
The team originally wanted to use lateral flow test technology to test for aflatoxins – a family of toxins produced by fungi – but this idea was changed due to the risks associated with working with the toxins in a laboratory setting.
They decided to test for norovirus instead because it was safer and easier to acquire.
Commenting on their win, Team ALFT said: “Throughout the FoNS-MAD competition, we met so many amazing people with great ideas and we benefited a lot from them, thus with the collision of thought and the assistance of those brilliant people, we finally made it to the final. In winning the competition we have reached a level we had never dreamt of.”
The team also encouraged any students who are interested in getting involved in FoNS-MAD next year to take advantage of the opportunity.
They said: “For students who would like to give FoNS-MAD a shot in 2023, we would say don’t be nervous and don't let the fact that you might be a fresher stop you from taking part. We were also in our first year when we started our project - and we won the competition!
“On this journey, you'll meet the brightest people in the world - be brave enough to talk to them, be brave enough to push your knowledge limits, and you will definitely gain something unexpected.”
The team are now looking forward to proceeding with further wet lab work for their technology, with the hope of developing it into a commercially available product.
Main image credit: James Tye.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
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