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Congratulations to Olivia Hallisey, Winner of the 2015 Google Science Fair!

google hangoutIt’s a little late in coming (the science fair concluded back in September. Oops!), but better late than never! Dream It Do It would like to extend some congratulations to 16-year-old Olivia Hallisey of Greenwich High School in Connecticut. She pulled out the big win at the 2015 Google Science Fair!

Last year’s winners were three young women from Ireland who developed a method to increase global crop yields by over 74 percent. Now that’s impressive, to be sure. But Ms. Hallisey’s victory came thanks to a brilliant solution to a very pressing problem around the globe: a test to detect the Ebola virus in less than 30 minutes!

The test that she created gives easy-to-read results in less than 30 minutes — potentially before someone is even showing symptoms. According to her project, she concludes that, “Current Ebola detection methods are complex, expensive, require unbroken refrigeration from manufacture to use and up to 12 hours from testing to confirmed diagnosis.”

“[My test] provides rapid, inexpensive, accurate detection of Ebola viral antigens based on color change within 30 minutes in individuals prior to their becoming symptomatic and infectious.”

The problems with many current Ebola tests are many, Hallisey tells TechInsider. “Current methods of Ebola detection utilize enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (“ELISA”) detection kits which cost approximately $1,000 each, require complex instrumentation, trained medical professionals to administer, and up to 12 hours from testing to diagnosis.”

Now, those types of kits might be hard to come by or keep viable in certain areas of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, where the virus is taking the heaviest toll. But Hallisey’s test remained viable even in the less-than-ideal conditions where the test is needed the most.

To make the test stable, Hallisey used silk fibers to stabilize the chemicals on card stock, allowing them to sit around at room temperature for up to 3 weeks and still be effective. No refrigeration required, unlike with current Ebola tests. She then used these silk-stabilized chemicals to design a paper-based test that requires only a serum sample (the clear part of the blood after the red blood cells have been removed) and water to run.

The test works kind of like a paper towel soaking up liquid when its corner is dunked in water. A serum sample is added to one corner of the test paper while three detection chemicals are placed in the remaining corners. By adding water, the chemicals get soaked up and move towards the center, where they meet the serum sample and give a positive or negative reading.

The early detection of virus infection is critical for patients, since the faster you start to treat someone the more likely they are to survive. Having a test that is simple and can be stored at room temperature would be a game changer for the entire world. Hallisey, currently entering her junior year at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, says her test could also be adapted to detect HIV, Dengue and Yellow fever viruses, Lyme disease, and even certain cancers.

So congratulations to Ms. Hallisey and her grand prize win at the Google Science Fair! She takes home the grand prize $50,000 in scholarship funding from Google this year. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be your turn next year!

Photo credit: Google Hangout via Tech Insider

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