16 Year Old Girl Develops Groundbreaking $5.00 HIV Test

Sixteen year old Nicole Sabina Ticea has just been named runner-up at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which examines contributions to scientific research made by young people. According to Intel’s announcement, Ticea “developed a low-cost, easy-to-use testing device to diagnose HIV infections in low-resource communities.”

Her invention is described as a disposable microfluidic cartridge which costs less than $5.00 to produce. It requires only a small drop of blood to obtain a reading. Intel states this makes the device ideal for testing newborn babies.

They elaborate:

“Unlike conventional enzyme-linked, immuno-sorbent assays based on an antibody response, Ticea’s approach is based on recognition of HIV RNA, and can provide results in just 60 minutes. Ticea has founded a company (of which she is chief science officer) to further develop her technology. Additionally, her approach could be used to combat other diseases, such as malaria.”

For her work, Ticea has received a $50,000 scholarship fund reward. Her device is expected to be FDA approved and mass-produced within five years.

Pictured: 16 year old Nicole Ticea, who developed a groundbreaking HIV test cheaper than any currently available technologies.
Pictured: 16 year old Nicole Ticea, who developed a groundbreaking HIV test cheaper than any currently available technologies.

Speaking to other young scientists, she stated:

“Persistence is key. I cannot count the number of rejections I received before finally finding a mentor willing to aid me with my project. I was urged several times — by my parents and teachers, no less — to find a different project or give up altogether. Even after finding a mentor and lab, I was plagued by false positives, failed experiments and long hours at the lab, which interfered with my schoolwork and athletic activities.

In truth, I believe that anyone with enough fortitude and persistence can make a large impact upon whichever field they choose. This is particularly true of teens; being so young, I feel as though youth display a naiveté, which transcends ordinary limitations of money and time. In the end, I hope that other teens will be inspired by the journey I undertook with my work and the knowledge that anything is possible.”

Other exceptional youths from Intel’s program include grand prize winner Raymond Wang, for his research on curbing the spread of disease in aircraft cabins, and second runner-up Karan Jerath, who “refined and tested a novel device that could allow an undersea oil well to rapidly and safely recover in the event of a blowout.”

After word began spreading of Ticea’s HIV test breakthrough, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy tweeted “[Ticea] embodies something [important]: anyone, regardless of age, can change the world.”

Others likewise congratulated the teens for their breakthroughs on social media.

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