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Cancer Detection Device Developers Win James Dyson Award

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Michael Takla, Rotimi Fadiya, Prateek Mathur and Shivad Bhavsar, all graduates of McMaster's Electrical and Biomedical Engineering program, have received the prestigious James Dyson Award with $50K to support the development of The sKan, the team's skin cancer detection device.

Members of the sKan team meet James Dyson during a visit to the company's UK Headquarters.
Members of the sKan team meet James Dyson during a visit to the company's U.K. Headquarters. Courtesy of McMaster.

The sKan was one of only two Canadian projects that made the shortlist of 20 finalists, selected from over 1,000 entries from 23 countries by a panel of Dyson engineers. Named after the renowned British inventor, designer and force behind Dyson, the home appliance technology company, the James Dyson award celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers. The award is open to current and recent design engineering students.

The sKan assists physicians and the average person in detecting melanoma by creating a thermal map on the region of interest on the skin. The device is made up of 16 temperature-sensitive components called thermistors that look for areas of significant temperature difference on the skin, which may indicate risk of melanoma. Current diagnosis methods are purely qualitative and based only on visual inspection. The sKan provides quantitative information about skin spots so that physicians can select appropriate patients for a biopsy.

"We came across the issue of skin cancer and how technology hasn't had the same impact on its diagnosis as it has on other fields in medicine,"Mathur said. "We found research that used the thermal properties of cancerous skin tissue as a means of detecting melanoma. However, this was done using expensive lab equipment. We set out to apply the research and invent a way of performing the same assessment using a more cost-effective solution."

The knowledge the team gained from their undergraduate engineering program, which has since evolved into the new Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences (iBiomed) program, helped them develop and execute their idea.

"Our education on anatomy and physiology allowed us to understand the physiological concepts discussed in the research papers we used," Bhavsar said. "We were also able to design a large portion of our electrical system based on the knowledge we gained from our electrical and computer engineering courses."

"We're proud of The sKan team for winning this international award," said Ishwar K. Puri, McMaster's dean of engineering. "At McMaster Engineering, we inspire all of our students to have big ideas through design thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship. We educate them to become engaged citizen scholars who will transform the world and solve those wicked problems our society faces."

The next step for the sKan group is to create a new prototype that will bring them to the pre-clinical testing phase. "Our aspirations have become a reality," Mathur said. "Skin cancers are the most common form of cancer worldwide, and the potential to positively impact the lives of those affected is both humbling and motivating."

Feb/Mar 2018
BusinessTechnology NewsMichael TaklaRotimi FadiyaPrateek MathurShivad BhavsarMcMaster Universityprestigious James Dyson AwardawardsfundingcancerAmericasRapidScanBiophotonics

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