Heman Bekele, a 14-year-old ninth grader from W.T. Woodson High School Annandale, Virginia, has been bestowed the prestigious ‘America’s Top Young Scientist award’ for his breakthrough invention of a non-expensive skin cancer healing soap. He received this honor from 3M and Discover Education. This challenge is recognized as one of the premier middle school competitions in the USA.
As per a news release, this year’s challenge invited students to use STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in solving real-world issues. Shripriya Kalbhavi, a ninth grader from San Jose, California, secured the second position for developing a low-cost patch that enables a self-automated medicine distribution system. Sarah Wang, a seventh grader from Andover, Massachusetts won third place for developing a hand glove that is connected to a smartphone app and recognizes specific epileptic episodes. They won a cash prize of 2,000 USD each. Students who came in fourth to tenth positions won a cash prize of USD 1000 and a gift card of 500 USD.
Bekele, a native of Ethiopia who moved to the US when he was 4 years old, introduces himself on LinkedIn as ‘passionate about medicine, programming, and making an impact’ and eager for opportunities in STEM and Computer Science. In the future, he plans to pursue a career in electrical engineering. He competed against nine other finalists, won a cash prize of USD 25000, and intends to use it for his college fees and a patent. “I believe that young minds can make a positive impact on the world. I have always been interested in biology and technology, and this challenge gave me a perfect platform to showcase my ideas”, Heman Bekele said in his submission for America’s Top Young Scientist Award. Over the next five years, Heman hopes to carry forward his invention to a non-profit cause and help the needy with the low-cost soap.
Heman created this soap by mixing three chemicals—salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and tretinoin—with medicinal soap to reactivate the dendritic cells, which in turn trigger an immune response to fight cancer by teaming up with the white blood cells. Each bar of the soap costs only USD 0.50 in comparison to expensive skin cancer medical treatments. According to Bekele, the soap can be applied to the skin every few days with a prescription.
The WHO estimates that each year between two and three million cases of non-melanoma cancers and more than a million melanoma cases are reported worldwide. Climatic conditions, skin types, and cultural practices are the main risk factors for skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the three main types of skin carcinoma.
Heman Bekele’s discovery promises a cost-effective solution for a major health concern, and the world awaits further developments to his invention. He stands as an example for young innovative minds, creating a powerful impact in the field of healthcare and contributing to society.
(Input from various media sources)