- Summarize and report out on the results of the SKS exercise.
During Tuesday’s class, we completed a series of exercises meant to affirm our own and our teammates’ skills and assets with regards to our project. One of these exercises was the Start, Keep, Stop (SKS) exercise. In this exercise, our three team members wrote two things under each of the three sections (SKS) that would help improve our project. One “Start” we all agreed on was to make a larger effort to become knowledgeable in all facets of the project. We all look up to Maria, Jannah, Ashleigh and the other senior members because of their wide ranging knowledge of the project. We are on our respective subteams, and we have been putting in work in the labs and working on the concept paper, but there are parts of the project that we are not as familiar with. Participating in events like the Lehigh EXPO, DEBUT and even our GSIF presentations will help us in furthering our knowledge, but we agree we can do more. We should take advantage of our senior members’ knowledge while we still have it, so we can continue the process of creating strong, intelligent and passionate team members. Once again, our team independently wrote that we should continue acting inquisitively and proactively in the “Keep” section. In our seminar, Khanjan has repeatedly stressed the importance of asking any and all questions. No question is a stupid question any questions help in advancing our project in some way. In our meetings, and in the lab, we have made a consistent effort in asking questions often. Finally, we had some differing opinions on what we should stop doing. Two of the most worthwhile results from this section include “stop being short-sighted and using more foresight for problems/solutions” and “Realizing the purpose of everything we do, executing everything with perfection”. Sometimes, our group may not realize the purpose in doing a specific activity, but I feel we sometimes need to look at things in not only a short term sense, but also a long term sense. Our team is very smart, cohesive, fun and intelligent, but we still learned a lot from this SKS exercise.
- Develop a detailed Collaboration Plan for your team clearly articulating your Goals (Small g and Big G), Roles, Procedures, and Relationships.
Our team’s role is to successfully develop and administer a lateral flow immunoassay test strip in order to diagnose sickle cell disease (SCD) in Sierra Leone. The organizations and individuals (listed in “Relationships” below) identified the absolute need for a low-cost, screening device and have shown interest in what our solution proposes.
The project has gone through multiple stages of prototype designs to the design we have today with our PI, Professor Cheng, and GSIF coordinator, Khanjan Mehta. The team has also validated this device and has received feedback through the connections we have established with World Hope International and Sickle Cell Care Awareness Network (SCCAN) together with partnerships within Sierra Leone including Masanga Hospital and Dr. Cheedy Jaja.
Procedures/Work in Progress as of Now:
So far, the team has a successful diagnostic test strip established. The novel device schematics, the “E-junction”, is capable of running on only a single drop of blood without a dilution step. The process is efficient and only takes 15 minutes to run.
However, before the actual field testing, the team must prioritize creating an IRB for obtaining and testing on HbA and HbS blood samples. Currently, the diagnostic device is being tested using purified HbA and HbS, and also HbA blood samples from a local blood bank in Bethlehem. In addition, the team is in the process of acquiring an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to receive HbS blood samples from the Lehigh Valley Hospital.
Current Goals and Milestones:
As our lateral flow device is improved and developed over time, our team plans to write publications. To do so, we are looking into journals to understand what our targeted audience wants to see from our research. For instance, in-depth concepts about our diagnostic device’s design, outcome, specificity, and sensitivity. Our experiments will be planned based on our target journal and two main focuses discussed in our publication will be design versus clinical tests versus field considerations. Some publications the team is considering as of right now are IEEE for review, Lab on the Chip, and the Journal of Hematology.
Another goal the team is looking at is quality control. As a team, we must figure out the shelf-life and storage of the test strips (by itself or with the blood sample + running buffer + antibody). Possible storage we are looking into is the development of a casing. Other aspects to consider are also the effects of humidity, temperature and other possible constraints (dehydration).
After establishing quality control, we are currently working on is optimizing the production of test strips. An automated repetitive system for the printing mechanism has been slowly developed alongside the diagnostic device. The system will consist of a conveyor belt and functionality programmed by an Arduino with Matlab. The goal is to create a motor-driven belt in which it could transport the strips of Nitrocellulose membranes down the conveyor. The Nitrocellulose membrane strips will reach a point, where it will trigger a light sensor (Photocell or Light Dependent Resistor Sensor), causing a chain reaction to enable an attached syringe press (propped up by a 3D printed stand) to pump the antibody solution onto the strip.
Next Steps and Larger Goals:
In August of 2020, the team will be returning to Sierra Leone to conduct the alpha testing phase of the diagnostic device. To conduct this testing, we aim to collaborate with Dr. Jaja who has IRB approval to run studies on current SCD screening devices, SickleSCANⓇ. As we work under his guidance, an estimate of 10-20 devices will be tested to validate its usability.
By July of 2021, the team will focus on receiving IRB approval to start beta testing the diagnostic device. Under the IRB, the team plans to test around 100 test strips. Alongside the testing, our goal is to provide an educational system that will teach the Sierra Leone locals to be conscious of SCD symptoms. In order to do so, we have recognized the indigenous knowledge, traditional beliefs, and practices, so our device can be accustomed to being non-disruptive to the current Sierra Leonean lifestyle. Therefore, the educational curriculum will focus on providing locals with information on where and how to receive treatment.