Electrical engineering PhD student, Rahil Jain, likes to develop instruments that can improve lives. His current project aims to improve the performance of existing rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), like the flu. This proposal has progressed to the final round of the APF 2016 Student Technology Prize for Primary Healthcare. The grand prize for the competition is $150,000.
In 2015, his dedication to efficient and impactful devices led him to win the Vikram Jandhyala and Suja Vaidyanathan Endowed Innovation Award in Electrical Engineering for his invention of Hook, a device hub that allows for a self-controlled smart home environment.
His current project, which according to Jain, “was very much inspired by Hook,” proposes to improve the specificity and sensitivity of commercially available RDTs via a smartphone application. This app calculates the probability of a positive diagnosis through a simple survey, advanced algorithms of current disease trends, the patient’s risk factors and RDT results.
The device can span a variety of infectious diseases. Currently, it is focused on the flu – a disease that kills 36,000 people each year in the United States alone. RDT devices used to diagnosis the flu are notably erratic. Laboratory-based tests offer increased accuracy but they are expensive and resource-intensive.
The app supplies an additional layer of efficacy to the RDT diagnosis, providing the doctor with a positive or negative diagnosis and the statistical confidence of that result. For areas throughout the world with limited access to extensive laboratory-based tests, this device will make a serious impact.
For Jain, this is a particularly important realization. While living in India, Jain noticed that resource-poor areas could greatly benefit from the invention of these devices. Eventually, the app could offer a diagnosis on a multitude of infectious diseases, like malaria and tuberculosis.