BME Senior Design Project Team Awarded for Work on Infection Diagnostic

A biomedical engineering senior design project team has been selected as one of five finalists in the MGH-APF 9th Annual Student Technology Prize in Primary Healthcare competition for their work on creating a diagnostic tool that will mitigate the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The team—composed of Charles Rabolli, Neel Nirgudkar, Sarah Salter, and Sudeepti Vedula and advised by biomedical engineering assistant professor Adam Gormley—was awarded $5,000 to continue developing a point-of-care paper-based microfluidic device that can differentiate between bacterial and viral infections. Rabolli said the goal of the project is to address the problem of over-prescribed antibiotics around the world.

“This mentality of over-prescription has led to a serious crisis with the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria,” Rabolli said. “The paper-based microfluidic device will test a small blood sample, like that of a finger-prick used to check blood glucose levels by diabetics, and the blood will then be wicked forward on the device by the paper. We will incorporate biological markers that are specific for only bacterial infections and others that are specific for only viral infections.”

The team will begin wet-lab work to compete for the $100,000 grand prize. The 20-page final proposal is due September 25.

“We certainly have our work cut out for us, but I know we are all very excited to see what becomes of our idea. If we can capitalize upon the good start that we have, we may be able to take this project very far,” Rabolli said.

Gormley said that he is very proud of the team for its accomplishment in the highly-competitive competition. 

“They came to me with such enthusiasm and determination that I had no doubt they could win this award. It will be very exciting to see how far they can push this project forward and build a diagnostic that helps protect us from antibiotic resistant bacteria,” he said.

The national competition is hosted by Massachusetts General Hospital's Ambulatory Practice of the Future (APF) and sponsored by the Gelfand Family Charitable Trust. It encourages undergraduate and graduate engineering students to develop innovative technology with the potential to improve primary care.

Pictured clockwise from top left: Charles Rabiolli, Sudeepti Vedula, Neel Nirgudkar, Sarah Salter.