10 October, 2020



October 7, 2020, Cairo – A multidisciplinary team of students at The American University in Cairo (AUC) recently came in second place in the Public Inspiration Award category at the international SensUs 2020 Competition, held virtually by the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. The AUC students represented the only team from Egypt, the Middle East and Africa that was chosen to participate, competing against 14 prominent technological universities worldwide.

SensUs is an annual competition where multidisciplinary student teams from different sciences and engineering specializations develop innovative biomedical biosensors to measure markers of diseases or therapeutic drugs in patient blood for better health care. At the end of the competition, only two awards are presented in each of three categories: creativity, translation potential and public inspiration. 

Named AUSense, the AUC team was made up of undergraduate students Sohila Rabie (biology), Rofida Zaghlol (biology), Antonios Farouk (physics), Zahraa Gamal (computer engineering) and Abdelrahman Nabih (mechanical engineering) as well as chemistry graduate students Bishoy Abib and Aya Allam.

“Being part of the AUSense team has opened the door for me to experience real research work that tackles current issues in the medical field, which is closely related to my major,” said Rabie. “For me, the competition itself was a wonderful experience, not only because of the rich knowledge and experiences we had but also because it serves humanity in the end. I also really enjoyed working with our multidisciplinary team, and I feel super proud that we invested our time during the quarantine in something very useful, interesting and innovative.”

For its fifth edition, SensUS challenged the teams to devise biosensors to treat the neurological disorder epilepsy to measure the biomarker ‘unbound valproate,’ a drug clinically prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy. Each team then submitted a full business plan on their invented biosensor and its feasibility and showcased it during an oral presentation. 

"The SensUs competition brings invaluable experience to all students because it offers an excellent opportunity for those with diverse academic backgrounds to work on a multidisciplinary innovation project, “said Abib. “Despite the COVID-19 crisis and the obstacles we encountered, our hard work and dedication finally paid off. We hope that someday we could develop our biosensor concept beyond the competition."

This year marks the fourth year of AUC’s participation in the SensUs competition and the third that an AUC team wins a SensUs award. To date, the teams have been assembled and mentored by Hassan Azzazy, professor and chair of the chemistry department, as well as coordinator of the biosensor grant and team mentor. 

“It was my pleasure to facilitate the participation of AUC in this prestigious international competition and to coach the AUC teams," commented Azzazy, expressing his pride in the team’s accomplishments during such challenging circumstances. "Despite the great limitations and restrictions suffered by the AUC team this year due to the COVID-19 lockdown, they have managed to not only successfully participate in this yearlong competition but also win a unique award, competing against top technical universities across Europe, the United States, Canada and China." 

Shortly, a new team of AUC students will be formed to participate in next year's competition tackling the detection of influenza and flu viruses. Along with science and engineering students, Azzazy also encourages students from the School of Business to partake in this year’s competition to support the development of the new biosensor’s relevant business plan.

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