Adrian Haber and Rahi Punjabi Selected as Massachusetts BioGENEius Delegates

April 10, 2013

Delegates Headed to Chicago for Prestigious Science Competition

April 10, 2013 (Cambridge, MA) — Adrian Haber of Boston Latin School and Rahi Punjabi of Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough have been selected to represent Massachusetts at an international science fair competition in Chicago this month.

Haber, of Boston and Punjabi, of Northborough, will compete against students from across the country in the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge at the BIO International Convention in Chicago on April 20, 2013.

“By highlighting the amazing research of these students, at such a young age, the BioGENEius Challenge promotes scientific excellence and curiosity. With more than 430 students competing in the Challenge each year, we hope to encourage these students – as well as others – to consider pursuing a career in biotechnology, said Tom Wiggans, Chairman of The Biotechnology Institute, which organizes the challenge.

The young scientists earned their spots through a competitive process based on cutting-edge research they prepared for the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF), which will take place from May 2-4 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Tenth grader Haber's biochemistry-based project is titled “Testing the Effectiveness of Liposomal Nanoparticle Delivery of Oxybutynin to Reduce Bladder Spasms.” Through a novel method of using isolated pig bladders, the project tests the effectiveness of using liposomal nanoparticles to direct the delivery of medications for the treatment of overactive bladder and reduce side effects. With more than 39 million adults in the U.S. suffering from overactive bladder, Haber's project addresses a significant problem. He concluded that when oxybutynin is contained in liposomal nanoparticles it can diffuse into bladder tissue to reduce bladder spasms.

Punjabi is a BioGENEius Challenge veteran, having represented Massachusetts in the 2012 Challenge with a project exploring the antibiotic potential of garlic. This year, the eleventh grader entered another biology-based project called "Engineering a Novel Fusion Protein Therapy for Meningococcal Infection." The study looks at Neisseria meningitidis, a major and deadly cause of meningitis and sepsis worldwide. Punjabi concluded that fusion proteins show potential as a therapy for meningococcal infection.

As BioGENEius delegates, Haber and Punjabi will attend the 2013 BIO International Convention in Chicago (April 22-25), and participate in the national BioGENEius Challenge on April 20th. Based on their placement in the national competition, each delegate -- or both -- could advance to the international competition held on the following day. This is an all-expense-paid trip for the delegates and their chaperones.

The BioGENEius Challenges are national and international competitions for high school students that recognize excellence in original research in biotechnology. The Challenges, organized by the Biotechnology Institute, are prestigious science competitions with significant cash prizes awarded to the winners.

Selected winners of BioGENEius Challenges compete and present their research posters and oral presentations in front of a panel of biotech judges. The students are evaluated on their scientific merit and creative ability, project execution, and poster/oral presentation.

MassBioEd, a local partner of the BioGENEius Challenge, worked alongside MSSEF to recruit students as participants in the BioGENEius competition.  MassBioEd was active in recruiting judges for both the National and International BioGENEius Challenges as well as coordinating with the MSSEF winners in preparation for the BIO International Convention.

“The BioGENEius Challenge is the premier competition for high school students inspired to excel in the field of biotechnology,” said Lance Hartford, Executive Director of the MassBioEd Foundation. “We are proud of the two Massachusetts students that will represent the state in the upcoming U.S. BioGENEius challenge and wish them the best as they compete and present their exciting research.”

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