Washington State University engineering students Emily Willard and Katherine Brandenstein are hoping to save lives someday with a product they developed to make injections safer in the developing world.
The bioengineering students in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering won a total of $35,000 for their idea in three separate, regional competitions. They called their company Engage, which stands for Engineering Accessible Global Equipment.
Willard and Brandenstein devoted their senior year to doing a capstone project with social impact. As they scouted potential projects, they learned that contaminated injections are a huge problem in developing countries and a leading cause of death. Injections of antibiotics, vitamins, and vaccines are commonly given at doctors’ offices, but nearly half, or seven billion injections each year, are done with contaminated equipment.
“Syringes and needles are usually just rinsed with water and then used with different patients,” said Willard.
The students designed a nonremovable cap that attaches to the top of multidose vials of medicine. The cap holds a layer of liquid to sterilize the needle each time it passes through. The liquid could stop the spread of contaminants commonly found on a reused needle, such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.