TORONTO—A group of four McMaster University students has won a $50,000 prize to develop their idea for a hand-held device that detects skin cancer.
The recent grads—all students in electrical biomedical engineering at the Hamilton university—earned the International James Dyson Award for their final year project, called “The sKan.”
They say the non-invasive device can diagnose melanoma by monitoring the heat emissions of various cells.
The heat map it creates shows which cells recover more quickly from thermal shock, indicating the presence of skin cancer.
Its creators are 22-year-old Rotimi Fadiya, along with 23-year-olds Prateek Mathur, Michael Takla, and Shivad Bhavsar.
Takla and Fadiya say they will use the prize money to refine their device and work toward clinical trials.
“This whole experience has been kind of unreal,” said Takla, now working for Ontario Power Generation in the Niagara Region as an electrical engineer.
“Just hearing that we won kind of gives us a lot of validation, let's us know that we're on the right track.”
The team's British benefactor, James Dyson, best known for inventing a bagless vacuum, said in a statement that he chose the sKan because of its “potential to save lives around the world.”
Early diagnostic methods for melanoma rely heavily on visual inspections, which can be inaccurate.
And while many thermal imaging diagnostics cost upward of $50,000, the sKan costs less than $1,000.
“I think the opportunities are endless when you look ahead, and I can't wait to explore the various ways we can take this forward,” said Fadiya, born in Nigeria but raised in Barrie, Ont.
He would like to begin pre-clinical studies in the next six-eight months, but said seeking approval for possible use in homes or hospitals still is years away.
The device beat out rivals including a robotic arm from Italy that is able to print 3-D objects and a German device that makes it easier to puncture veins with a catheter on the first try.