Connecticut Teen Develops Ground Breaking Test For Ebola

Greenwich High School junior,  Olivia Hallisey, who has developed a revolutionary test for Ebola, has won the Grand Prize and a $50,000 scholarship in the Google Science Fair competition. For the grandchild of a doctor who aspires to that same profession, this is an astounding accomplishment. Thousands of teenagers competed for the coveted prize and the award was given earlier this week at the search engine giant's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

In the words of Chris Winters, Greenwich High School Headmaster:"...Olivia's work stands on the shoulders of scores of outstanding science research students who have benefited from the direction of their teacher, Andrew Bramante. We celebrate this great program and Olivia's brilliant success."


 Andrew Bramante and Olivia HalliseyAndrew Bramante and Olivia Hallisey


Current treatments for Ebola

The Ebola virus  claims the lives of 90% of all those who contract it, most of whom are not lucky enough to receive an early diagnosis and medical intervention. These two factors can greatly reduce fatalities by up to 50% and are crucial to the prevention of future epidemics. Current detection methods are complex, costly, time-consuming and utilize materials that require constant refrigeration.


Ebola VirusEbola Virus

CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith - Public Health Image Library

Maintaining the 'cold chain' from laboratory to point of usage is most challenging in regions like Liberia and Sierra Leone where Ebola is the most prevalent and where last year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 11,000 people died. These  tests can also take up  to twelve hours and cost about $1,000 each.

The award-winning Ebola test

Hallisey's inspiration for this research was prompted by the actions of Dr. Kent Brantley, who contracted Ebola last year while working at a hospital in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. She said: He showed the global community our collective moral obligation to act with courage and compassion."

Her Ebola test can be done on a four-channel card, where substances known as reagents react with a patient's antigens and are stabilized at room temperature via a silk film. This eliminates the need for  refrigeration. The test can be done within 30 minutes and is cheap, costing about $25.00, which  is a much more affordable option in the developing nations of West Africa, where the disease has reached epidemic proportions. Early detection is the key to survival and the hallmark of this new test, which can expose Ebola even when patients have not yet demonstrated any symptoms.


Ebola TestEbola Test


Andrew Bramante and Olivia Hallisey

Olivia's major supporter is Andrew Bramante, who since 2005, has been teaching Greenwich High School's three honors science research sections. He has been recognized as one of the district's top educators and according to his students, his success (and theirs) is due to the way he treats them, holding them up to the same standards he would have for himself. Many of his students have won numerous achievement awards at international fairs in Pittsburgh and  Houston and state fairs as well.

The future of this Ebola test

This Ebola test can also be used  fro the early detection of other dreaded diseases such as HIV, Lyme Disease, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and certain cancers. For Olivia Hallisey, the future couldn't look mcuh brighter. She told the press in a recent interview that her focus in life follows her grandmother's advice to "never freak out over little things."

There is nothing little about this high school student's incredible achievement.

In what ways do you feel your teachers may have influenced your choices you have made in your life?

Closing thoughts on success:

Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. ~ Thomas Carlyle