Eleanor Wilson from Up Holland joined the Maharishi School in 2011, when it became a Free School. She is now in her third year at Aberystwyth University, studying Biochemistry, and has just won The Telegraph STEM Awards 2019 Healthcare Challenge, which is sponsored by GSK.
The Telegraph STEM awards give undergraduate students a chance to showcase their talent to major companies and organisations in various fields, by proposing solutions to challenges facing the modern world.
Eleanor’s wining idea was a CRISPR-based technique to diagnose Tuberculosis (TB) . CRISPR is a family of DNA sequences found within the genomes of bacteria. They are used to detect and destroy DNA from viruses during secondary infections.
We might think that vaccination has more or less eradicated TB, particularly in developed countries like the UK. However, in 2017, TB was the biggest killer infection globally. Records show that well over half a million people had developed a strain of TB which was resistant to the best first-line drug treatments. Over 95% of TB cases occur in developing countries, with some groups 30 times more likely to get the disease.
Eleanor’s creative solution involves harnessing gene-editing technology for diagnosing the disease, which goes beyond the existing interest in disease treatment. Eleanor says “I think gene-editing CRISPR has huge diagnostic potential and will be better than the current method of looking at symptoms for diagnosis.” The potential is in fact a game changer with her idea offering more accurate diagnoses for some groups, including HIV positive patients with TB, as well as identifying drug-resistant strains of the disease.
Eleanor’s parents and Maharishi School staff alike are enormously proud of her fantastic achievement and are sure she will go on to even greater things once she has graduated. The world can only benefit from such intelligent young people applying themselves to the issues facing the world.