BU Alumni Web

ENG Student Wins Collegiate Inventors Competition

Treatment for persistent infections takes first prize and $15K

| From BU Today | By Amy Sutherland

Kyle Allison (ENG’12) is the winner of the annual Collegiate Inventors Competition. Photo by Cydney Scott

Kyle Allison won first place and a $15,000 prize in November in the annual Collegiate Inventors Competition for his discovery of a simple and inexpensive therapy for persistent infections.

“It’s so surreal,” Allison says. “When they announced the winner was from BU, I didn’t realize at first that they meant me.”

Allison, a College of Engineering PhD candidate, was one of nine graduate finalists (working on six projects) in the national contest, which drew some 100 entries from around the United States and Canada. The finalists gave their presentations in Washington, D.C., and winners were announced on November 15 in the two categories, graduate and undergraduate.

Working in the lab of James Collins, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and an ENG professor of biomedical engineering, Allison (ENG’12) found that sugar helps to wake up the dormant bacteria that cause persistent infections, thus increasing their vulnerability to antibiotics. He and Collins published the study in the journal Nature last spring.

A sugar-antibiotics combination could be used to wipe out recurring infections such as those of the ear, throat, lungs, and urinary tract, all of which can spread to vital organs if left unchecked. The most significant impact of the research could be on tuberculosis, a chronic bacterial infection of the lungs, which kills about 1.7 million people a year, according to the World Health Organization.

Allison says that as a graduate student, he had never contemplated having such a windfall, and he’s not sure what he will do with the $15,000.

The contest is operated by Invent Now, a nonprofit that encourages invention, and is sponsored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Abbott Fund, a philanthropic organization, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which is devoted to entrepreneurship.

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On 10 January 2012 at 6:43 AM, Evelyn S. Dow (CAS'68) wrote:

Wonderful work. Hope this young man continues in this field- wonderful that he won such a prize.

On 5 January 2012 at 10:29 PM, Nancy Passikoff (SON'69) wrote:

What a fabulous discovery! And from a BU grad, to boot...sure makes an alumna proud...especially coming from BUSON...sure wish it could be resurrected or, @ least incorporated into the other schools...what a new approach...some from MED, Public Health, Divinity Sociology...just keep on going for a new and diverse curriculum...add the Nightingale papers, nursing theory and BU a leader for the much needed new generation on nurses.. I.Iapsed, but it is all so connected. Good Going BU! Thanks for this and the memories...

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