In the 2020 edition of MIT Technology Review, four Spaniards have managed to make a place for themselves in the list. Inventors, visionaries, and pioneers – three women and one man have been awarded for dedicating their efforts to developing new projects to improve health care and technology. Their work and innovation contribute to changing the world, and their innovations make them leaders in their fields.
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The researchers and their inventions
In the category of Inventors, MIT has selected Idoia Ochoa, the Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U.S.).
Her ‘invention’ will facilitate progress in personalized medicine, as she has managed to develop an algorithm that allows processing of data on the genome. With her algorithm, she can reduce raw data of the genome from 196 GB to only seven GB. This facilitates the analysis of each patient’s genome, allowing for personalized attention to each case.
In its decision, the jury explained that Ochoa’s project “has a great impact, shows ingenuity, is very timely, and will help the society of the future to improve decision making and medical treatment.” For the moment, companies such as Roche, Genapsys, and Guardan Health have already shown interest in this new invention ‘with Spanish DNA‘.
The first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are so subtle that they often go unnoticed, so it may take several years for the patient to realize thats something is wrong. To support early diagnosis of this disorder, ETSIT researcher Teresa Arroyo-Gallego from the Polytechnic University of Madrid is developing nQMedical, a technology that analyzes how people interact with their smart devices and obtain hidden information about their brain health.
Thanks to this application, Arroyo-Gallego has been recognized as one of the Visionaries in this edition of the MIT awards. Her goal is that, in the future, this system will also intervene in the diagnosis of other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Another awarded Visionary is the proposal of Ester Caffarel-Salvador, a biotechnologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Langer Laboratory, who has developed a pill that delivers insulin orally. It is a great alternative for more than 400 million diabetics worldwide who have to resort to needles for treatment.
With this medical device, which she has called SOMA (Self-Orienting Millimeter Scale Applicator), they can prevent insulin from diminishing within the body. This pill reaches the stomach and delivers the hormone to the internal mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract, preventing it from spreading through the stomach and intestine, and preventing its degradation. Thus, insulin reaches the blood in the required dose. Through this research, Caffarel-Salvador appears as co-author of numerous international patents. Several multinational companies are showing interest in these insulin pills.
Awards in technology
Juan Aparicio, the Spaniard responsible for Advanced Manufacturing Automation at Siemens Corporate Technology, is working to make robots much more skillful. Their purpose is to grab different objects, even if they have never seen them, and manipulate them to perform different tasks.
Aparicio has created a system installed on a platform called Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that works with deep learning to calculate in milliseconds what movements must be done, in order to grab an object. Its development has allowed Aparicio to be selected as one of the Innovators under 35 Europe 2019 of MIT Technology Review in the category of Pioneers.
To recognize which object is in front of the robot, the system uses DexNet, an algorithm co-created with the University of California at Berkeley linked to a 3D object database. DexNet combines artificial intelligence with geometric models to calculate all possible grips. “The secret is to guide the robot with a series of stimuli or rewards until it gets the task,” said the Spanish telecommunications engineer.
Each year, MIT Technology Review selects a list of the most promising innovators from around the world. They are curious and persistent, inspired and inspiring. It doesn’t matter if they’re pursuing medical breakthroughs, reshaping energy technologies, making computers more useful or designing cooler electronic devices. Some have started their own companies, others work for multinationals or continue their academic research at the university, but according to MIT “all are ready to be leaders in their fields.”
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