A team of Clemson University bioengineering students has won $10,000 for its work on a low-cost glucometer and test-strip system aimed at helping diabetics in Tanzania and other resource-poor settings.

 Tyler Ovington, Alex Devon and Kayla Gainey were on the team that won a Lemelson-MIT “Cure it!” prize in the undergraduate category for their GlucoSense project.  The prize rewards students for working on technology-based inventions that can improve health care.

Tyler Ovington, left, loads a printer with special paper while Kayla Gainey works on a computer as part of their research into making diabetes test strips for a penny each.

Tyler Ovington, left, loads a printer with special paper while Kayla Gainey works on a computer as part of their research into making diabetes test strips for a penny each.

 The team was mentored by Dr. Delphine Dean and Dr. John DesJardins and financially supported by Clemson’s Creative Inquiry Program.

 GlucoSense works much the same as conventional test strips and glucometers. Diabetics put a drop of blood on a strip and then insert it in the glucometer to check whether their blood sugar is too high or low.

 A key difference in the student-designed test strips is that they can be printed for about a penny each by rigging an inkjet printer to shoot enzymes instead of ink.

 The potential cost-savings is huge. Commercially available test strips sell for as much as $1 each, and many diabetics need to use five or more a day.

 Students have also made a glucometer out of widely available parts that can be found in any U.S. electronics store or bought in bulk and shipped to remote parts of the world.

 That’s key because when medical equipment breaks in Tanzania, it can be tough for engineers to find replacement parts.

 Now that students have prototypes, they are working with regulators in the United States and Tanzania to get the necessary approvals for distribution. Human testing begins soon.

The work is part of the bioengineering department’s broader effort to improve lives in Tanzania, where students and faculty are working to introduce several low-cost medical devices, including an infant warmer and grass-woven neck braces.
Ovington, who was the team lead, and Devon are from Greenville. Gainey, who began her work as an undergraduate and is now working toward a doctoral degree, is from Sumter.