Jannah: I hope to push the project forward and make a contribution towards improving the lives of individuals with sickle cell anemia in Sierra Leone. Additionally, I hope to work on my team work, leadership, and presentation skills.
Maria: My personal goal is to learn valuable lab, entrepreneurship, presentation, leadership and teamwork skills all while working on a project that I truly care about and has the possibility to truly make a difference/impact (isn’t just a simulation).
Project goal: To improve the lives of individuals with sickle cell anemia in Sierra Leone (and other LMICs) through the design and implementation of a low-cost screening device and program.
Scaled project goal & metrics for success: Because of constraints, this goal will take at least 5-10 years to be achievable, and will take many outside resources and connections. Within the next few years, our current team will work towards several scaled goals.
First, we hope to design a low-cost, sensitive and specific lateral flow device to diagnose sickle cell anemia. Success of this goal will be evaluated based on an estimated scaled-up production cost below $1 per test strip, and a proven sensitivity and specificity above 98% (meaning there are very few false positive and negative test results).
Second, we hope to establish connections who can help the team scale-up and implement in the future. Success of this goal will include networking with doctors in the US and Sierra Leone who can help with clinical trials, programs and healthcare professionals in Sierra Leone who can help with program design and implementation, and NGOs who can possibly help fund the advancement of the project.
Currently our device is divided up into three teams (team is 10 people total):
Production Scale Up (3)
Assay Development (4)
Assay Optimization (3)
The production scale up team is focusing on rapid, simple and consistent ways to build our device. Their number one goal right now is to design and build a test line printing machine that will allow us to have more consistent read outs of positive and negative results. In order to truly start optimizing our device we need this machine to be up and running as soon as possible.
The assay development team is mainly focusing on the test lines. They are continuing the development of the sickle cell test line and working to find sensitive and specific antibodies. They are also working on determining the dynamic range of the test strip which is incredibly important data that is a main selling point for our device.
The assay optimization team works very closely with the assay development team. Their goal is to determine the optimal amount and volume of each material we should be using in order to minimize cost. Materials that are optimized first go through the assay development team and are compared to other materials based on their sensitivity and specificity. The assay development team and the assay optimization team works together on some experiments in order to work more efficiently. Communication between the teams mainly travels through the three main leaders of the two teams.
There is at least one leader on each team who has been on the project for at least a semester. We have a meeting as a whole research team once a week where we go over/share the progress each team made. At the meeting any experiments that need to be run by multiple teams in conjunction that week are planned. Goals for the week are laid out at the meeting therefore it is very clear what each group needs to get completed by the next meeting.
Decisions on experiments and next steps forward (grants, publications, prodacols) are mainly proposed by the 3 team leaders that have the most experience with the project. The decision proposals are then brought to the group at the team meeting and any feedback is discussed. At this team our PI also provides feedback and new insights. The final decision and how it is going to be carried out is made at the meeting.
Our meetings are guided using powerpoints; each team makes their own slides covering what was accomplished the past week, outcomes, and plans for the next week. The power points are used to keep us on track and insure that everyone is prepared. We like to have a different person from each group each week present what has been accomplished in order to insure everyone is engaged and understands what is going on with the project.
Are meetings are on Monday nights which is very convenient because we are able to plan additional meeting times if necessary then. All other communication is mainly done through email or text messaging.
Currently, there is very little diversity on our team. All of our members have engineering backgrounds, and are focused on the design of the physical test strip. Despite this, we have significant team diversity in terms of strengths. For example, Maria has very strong networking skills while Jannah has a lot of experience working in a lab. Additionally, our team hopes to recruit new members who have business experience, who can help with the scale up process.
Our team has spent a lot of time thinking of a team name and has yet to decide on one. Some ideas have included: SScreen, SSave, and SickleStick.