Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates today highlighted the work of two medical students Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang at Monash University in Australia who won the Imagine Cup, a competition run by Microsoft. They both had an opportunity to discuss about their project Eyenaemia, which lets people use their cell phone to screen for anemia.
Eyenaemia is designed to take out both the expense and the guesswork. It lets you take a photo of the underside of your eyelid and then, judging by the color, tries to tell whether you’re anemic. “What’s different about this is it’s noninvasive,” Jennifer said. “You don’t need all that sterile equipment, and an untrained user can use it.” (Their idea is part of a promising trend: Researchers are studying whether cell phones can reduce the need for lab tests by detecting pneumonia, HIV, TB, and other conditions.)
It’s exciting to see bright young people like Jennifer and Jarrel applying their talents to problems that disproportionately affect the poor. As I told them, I could see a future version of Eyenaemia being used in developing countries, especially with pregnant women, since anemia contributes to nearly 20 percent of deaths during pregnancy.
So the tool has real promise. But Jennifer and Jarrel aren’t under any illusions. They know that having a great idea—“screen for anemia with a cell phone”—was only the beginning. In the early stages, they had a lot to learn: They went online to read up on design and cloud computing, which they didn’t know much about. Now the challenge is different. They have to keep improving their work.
Read more at Gates Notes.