SEATTLE -- Some University of Washington students are developing a test which could improve the lives of people around the world.
It’s a credit card-sized HIV test called the OLA Simple.
“Very much looking like a pregnancy test. So there will be lines and you can know the result right away,” Nuttada Panpradist said.
The bioengineering Ph.D. student recently won a $50,000 grant from Massachusetts General Hospital. Panpradist says the APF student technology prize for primary healthcare is a coveted grant, and she is the first UW student to win.
“This is essentially the first time that we can get our ideas - that we have been scratching on boards for a long, long time - into action,” Panpradist said.
OLA Simple is an HIV rapid test that looks for mutations caused by the virus. Searching for biomarkers means patients could undergo testing five days after possible HIV infection rather than having to wait three months like with traditional lab tests. The test also aims to produce results in one hour instead of nine, and to look for drug resistance to anti-retro viral medications.
Panpradist, who hails from outside Bangkok, Thailand, says many people can often go untested because of stigma. She worked in the medical device field before coming to Seattle.
“That’s where I started to realize maybe I can be the one to build these technologies to help save lives,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization’s most recent data, there were 36.7 million people living with HIV in 2015, with 2.1 million infected that year and 1.1 million who died of AIDS-related complications.
In the U.S., one out of every eight people living with the virus are unaware, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
To stop the spread, early detection is crucial, particularly in developing countries.
“It has vast implications. There were some pretty shocking numbers and we were very driven to really try to make this work,” said Annie Wong, a UW senior on the research team.
Panpradist’s students feel a shared sense of duty because they know their science could help solve real-life scenarios.
“A lot of research that goes on never is translated to the world and helps people,” UW junior David McIntyre said. “It gives me extra motivation knowing what's going on in those countries and where we can actually provide help.”