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Bioengineering undergraduates take their diagnostic innovation to the Rice 360° Global Health Competition

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2019) … Two junior bioengineering students from the University of Pittsburgh were accepted to the Rice 360° Global Health Design Competition where more than 20 national and international student teams will present low-cost global health innovations. Sneha Jeevan and Shivani Tuli will be representing Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering at the competition in Houston, Texas on March 29, 2019. They will demonstrate their handheld complete blood count (CBC) point-of-care device, which can be used as a diagnostic tool for doctors working in underdeveloped nations. 

The competition asks teams to identify a challenge in delivering healthcare in developing countries and propose a potential technological solution. Tuli was inspired to create this device after a visit to India where she had the opportunity to travel to underprivileged areas and witness healthcare problems first-hand.

“Disparities in healthcare access and quality can greatly affect the health of residents in third world countries,” said Tuli. “Diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are rampant, and the lack of quality healthcare prevents proper treatment and contributes to further spread of disease. In developed areas, these illnesses are typically diagnosed through primary blood tests, specifically complete blood count testing, so we wanted to create a tool to help make this technology widespread.”

Their team, Blodot, used lab-on-a-chip technology and microfluidic concepts to develop a prototype CBC point-of-care device. Their portable technology uses a drop of blood and receives results within a few minutes. 

“A CBC test checks several measurable components of your blood in order to detect possible diseases and assess overall health,” said Jeevan. “In underdeveloped countries, however, CBC testing cannot be easily implemented because the machinery involved is expensive and unsuitable for the unhygienic conditions. Additionally, the time it takes for families to receive their results - typically two-to-four days - is impractical for residents who need to travel hours for their appointments with a physician.”

According to the competition, teams will be judged on “the quality of the problem definition, the effectiveness and potential impact of the design solution, and the likelihood that the solution can be successful in improving healthcare delivery in low-resource settings by faculty, clinicians, and private and public sector partners from around the country.”

“It is an absolute delight to see our undergraduates take advantage of such initiatives to become innovators of the future,” said Arash Mahboobin, assistant professor of bioengineering and coordinator of the undergraduate program. “I have known Shivani and Sneha since the start of their engineering endeavors in the Swanson School and am very proud of their achievements thus far. I will certainly continue to watch their careers develop with great interest and high expectations.”

Tuli and Jeevan recently participated in the final round of the Innovation Institute’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition, an event that awards $100,000 in cash prizes to Pitt student innovations with the goal of helping teams discover how to take their idea to the next level towards startup creation. Blodot placed second in the competition and won a $15,000 prize. 


Contact: Leah Russell