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Massachusetts Students Compete in Prestigious BioGENEius Challenge

Adrian Haber (left) of Boston Latin School and Rahi Punjabi of Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough were selected to represent Massachusetts at an international science fair competition in Chicago last week. Haber, of Boston and Punjabi, of Northborough, competed against students from across the country in the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge at the BIO International Convention in Chicago on April 20th. As BioGENEius delegates, Haber and Punjabi also attended the 2013 BIO International Convention in Chicago (April 22-25). “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 this week, from May 2-4 at MIT. 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 Novel Vaccine Targets 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. 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. Read more on Boston Business Journal

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