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Shaw Scholar contributes to the design of new Ebola protective suit

Undergrad students like Gabriela Frid help save lives
Posted August 14, 2016

Video: Renee Fischer


DuPont, a major manufacturer of personal protective equipment, signed a licensing deal for the new design. DuPont, a major manufacturer of personal protective equipment, signed a licensing deal for the new design.

Thinking about the Ebola outbreak in Africa that resulted in more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths, Shaw Scholar Gabriela Frid, Engr '16, signed up immediately when she learned of a three-day design challenge to create a better protective suit for health care workers.

"The number one reason for this design challenge was this notion that you have the bravest, the most passionate, the most selfless people in West Africa taking care of Ebola patients. They are there with sub-optimal gear, and many of them are losing their lives in the process of doing that," says Youseph Yazdi, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), which sponsored the challenge along with the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Jhpeigo, an international, non-profit health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins.

"We felt like it is our obligation as designers to try to do something," he adds, explaining that this personal protective equipment (PPE) challenge was open to students, faculty, clinicians, and the larger community and that the problem was subdivided into topics such as visibility of the healthcare worker, removing the suit more easily and safely to prevent contamination, and comfort in wearing the suit.

"In the areas where there were outbreaks in Africa, a lot of times the humidity could reach up to 100 percent and temperatures were 100 to 115 degrees. So, they had to don and doff the Ebola PPE every hour or less to not get heat stroke. This becomes dangerous when you have the virus on the outside of the suit," according to Frid, a biomedical engineering major whose group focused on venting and cooling to increase the amount of time health care workers could safely wear the suit.

Design ideas from the challenge – like vent systems to help with cooling – were then further developed for several months with a grant CBID received from the state of Maryland. With the help of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, a licensing deal was finalized with DuPont, a major PPE manufacturer.

"We expect product in the market in record speed," says Yazdi, "And the work that Gaby did, the work that other undergraduates did, other students did in that design challenge is going to save lives."

"Having these opportunities, like receiving the Kenneth Edwin Shaw Scholarship, is making a difference in my life. So, I think it’s important to give back wherever you are in your life," says Frid, who among other extracurricular activities volunteered at the Community School in Remington.

"And what excites me most about biomedical engineering is being able to help people with the skills that I possess," she adds.

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