Female Emirati student’s healing technique for scar patients wins global innovation challenge

DUBAI, A novel therapeutic technique that can accelerate healing for scar patients has won the ‘Falling Walls Lab Dubai’ competition, the regional platform of the global innovation challenge, hosted by Canadian University Dubai (CUD).

Developed by UAE national, Reem AlDhaheri, an undergraduate student of chemical engineering, the innovation now qualifies for the global finals of Falling Walls Lab to be held in Berlin on 8th November. Reem was among the shortlisted candidates who took to the stage at CUD to deliver three-minute presentations on their innovations before a panel of judges and an invited audience.

Reem was inspired by a friend’s suffering during long-term treatment for a hypertrophic scar (a raised, red scar that occurs due to collagen imbalance at the location of an injury). She set out to research how she could apply her knowledge to develop a new approach to the healing process. Drawing on advances in science, combined with her own innovative approach, Reem has harnessed nanotechnology to develop a breakthrough technique that speeds up healing compared to traditional methods.

The innovations were evaluated by a panel of judges comprising Essa Alzaabi, Director, Entrepreneurship Department, Start Up Hub, Dubai Chamber; Andrae Owuh, MD, Start Up Grind, Dubai; Carlos Guevara, Partner, Sia Partners; Hanane Benkhallouk, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Sustain Leadership; and Medy Navani, Founder and Creative Director, Design Haus Medy.

The event, held in Dubai for the very first time, was also attended by Guenter Rauer, Consul General of Germany; Kate Starkey, Senior Trade Commissioner, Consulate General of Canada in Dubai; and CUD President, Pr. Karim Chelli.

Elaborating on her path-breaking innovation, Reem commented, “I was surprised to find that despite phenomenal advances in healthcare, the approaches to treating hypertrophic scars has not changed in the last 30 years. This is something that can affect anyone at any time � a hypertrophic scar can result from surgery, burns or even an insect bite � so I felt it was an important area to explore.

“My innovative method proposes the use of silicone gel sheets impregnated with silicone nanocrystals. These sheets can be applied to the scar site making it possible to decrease the size of a scar. I hope this is a technique that we can go on to develop fully, to be of great benefit to people all over the world.”

Reem’s innovation was selected from an array of outstanding projects that were entered into the challenge from participants across the region. Over 30 applicants submitted breakthrough ideas on how to tackle global concerns, such as cybersecurity, energy conservation and alleviating poverty.

The second place in the challenge was won by Sethi Sarthak, a student who has invented a smart control device for disabled people, while the third place went to Chotalia Vrushabh for his augmented reality approach to alternative transport.

Speaking after the event, judging panel member, Benkhallouk said, “It’s refreshing to see challenges that provide the creative space for young people to explore new ideas and to facilitate the learning by doing approach. As we know, the essential skills of the future are critical thinking, complex problem solving and leadership, and that is what we’ve seen here today. I commend Canadian University Dubai for providing this platform and hope to see more events of this kind in the future.”

Speaking on behalf of CUD, event organiser and University Incubator Coordinator, Elisabetta Lampedecchia, said, “Receiving so many applications from outside of the UAE clearly demonstrates that Dubai is viewed across the region as an excellent launch pad and is a showcase for innovative ideas. We now need to build on these foundations; to connect research, academia and enterprise to create a fully-integrated innovation ecosystem in the UAE, for the benefit of the entire region.”

Reem will demonstrate her winning project to an audience of over 600 world-class experts, including delegates from prestigious institutions such as Harvard and MIT, in Berlin on November 8. CUD representatives will also be attending the event.

Source: Emirates News Agency