Dyson Award winner Blue Box

Home breast screening device takes international James Dyson Award

Image credit: Dyson via PA Media

The 2020 winners of the James Dyson Awards have been announced, with the top prizes going to the inventors of a home breast cancer screening device and a material which converts UV light into renewable energy.

Judit Giro Benet came up with the idea for 'The Blue Box' after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The device uses a machine-learning algorithm to detect specific urine metabolites in a urine sample.

Twenty-three-year-old Benet was motivated to develop a “pain-free, accurate, non-irradiating, low-cost, in-home” test for breast cancer after learning from the CDC that almost 40 per cent of women skipping mammograms will potentially result in one in three cancers being detected too late, and that 94 per cent of breast cancers diagnosed by mammograms are false alarms.

She started developing the first Blue Box prototype in 2017 as part of her biomedical engineering degree at the Universitat de Barcelona, before moving to California to pursue the idea. Together with a colleague, she developed a second prototype and started making use of a cloud server to allow a computationally expensive AI algorithm (inspired by the sensory system of dogs) to be run. This led to a classification rate of over 95 per cent.

The user simply needs to create a profile on The Blue App, collect a urine sample and place it inside the device; it takes just 30 seconds for its six chemical sensors to start reacting to breast-cancer biomarkers. The data is then sent to a cloud server to be processed, and a diagnosis is returned to the user’s app.

“The Blue Box has the potential to make cancer screening a part of daily life,” said Benet. “It can help to change the way society fights breast cancer to ensure that more women can avoid an advanced diagnosis.”

Sir James Dyson commented: “Unfortunately, I have witnessed first-hand the harrowing effects of cancer and as scientists and engineers we should do anything we can to overcome this terrible disease. Judit is using hardware, software, and AI together, in an impressive way, to create a well-designed product that could make cancer screening part of everyday life.

“She deserves all the support she can get as she navigates the highly complex system of medical approvals.”

A new award for sustainability was given to 27-year-old Carvey Ehren Maigue for AuREUS: a material which converts UV light into renewable energy. Maigue was inspired by the auroras, which appear when high-energy (gamma and UV) light is absorbed and reemitted as lower-energy (visible) light by luminescent particles in the atmosphere. The material contains similar types of luminescent particles (derived from waste crops) suspended in a resin substrate. It can be applied to the outside of buildings, transforming them into “vertical solar farms”.

The two runners-up were teams of students based in the UK and Canada, who created a device which captures tyre-wear particles at the wheel of vehicles for recycling and a lens using liquid crystals confined in a cell to transform zooming on smartphones, respectively.

“Young people want to change the world, and the engineers, scientists, and designers who enter the James Dyson Award demonstrate that they can,” said Dyson. “We have observed a growing number of ideas for healthcare and improving sustainability and it seems invidious to choose between such noble ideas, so we created two prizes this year, to support two equally worthy inventions.

“Judit and Carvey are highly impressive individuals who have made significant breakthroughs, I hope that they can use the James Dyson Award as a springboard to future success.”

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