Inventor of food-testing biochip wins Singapore Challenge Medallion

Inventor of food-testing biochip wins Singapore Challenge Medallion

Electrical engineer Carlos Duarte-Guevara won at the Global Young Scientists Summit for his invention which allows food testing to be conducting anywhere.

Global Young Scientists Summit

SINGAPORE: A first-of-its-kind portable biochip that can help to detect harmful pathogens in food has earned its inventor top honours at the the Singapore Challenge 2016.

Mr Carlos Duarte-Guevara, an electrical engineer from the University of Illinois, beat 47 other entries with his winning proposal that will allow food testing to be conducted anywhere, unlike existing food testing systems that require specialised expertise and facilities. It can also concentrate, amplify and identify bacterial DNA, creating a point-of-care biosensing system.

This was announced on Friday (Jan 22) at the closing ceremony of the 4th Global Young Scientists Summit (GYSS), held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. The summit is an annual five-day boot camp to let young researchers from over the world, learn from top scientists and technology leaders. Speakers included 13 Nobel laureates.

"The key challenge is to bring together an electrical engineering perspective with biology," said Mr Duarte-Guevara. He said he learnt that scientists should "look for inspiration in different fields"."Very often, you get siloed in specific problems and many solutions can be found in different fields."

He received a Singapore Challenge Medallion and US$100,000 cash prize for having the best concept and technological solution addressing the challenge of safeguarding and conserving resources like water and energy, and to allow sustainable living for future generations.

The fifth-year PhD student said he hopes to develop a full prototype for his product in about 18 months. He expects that it will take about two years to push the final product into market.


President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who presented the medallion to Mr Duarte-Guevara, told summit participants that more innovative ideas are needed to help safeguard and conserve resources and to enhance quality of life.

"We also need to develop in our youth the curiosity to discover, the desire to experiment and the respect for people who set out to develop new knowledge."

He said out-of-the-box solutions developed through interdisciplinary application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are required to tackle global challenges and problems.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said he met with the Turing Award winners speaking at the recent Global Youth Scientists Summit, with whom he discussed how technology has come to influence the future of learning.

"Young students are increasingly exposed to technology-focused subjects, such as coding and computer science, and such courses are also easily accessible online," said Dr Balakrishnan.

Source: CNA/ly