ATLANTA, GA - (This guest blog was written and shared by iCAN KIDS Georgia youth member and Youth Council Leader Ananya Ganesh.)
My name is Ananya Ganesh and I am a member of the KIDS Georgia Chapter as well as the Leader of the iCAN Youth Council. In June of 2019, I travelled to Philadelphia to attend the International BioGENEius Challenge. It was one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve ever had. The BioGENEius Challenges are conducted by the Biotechnology Institute. However, each region chooses its own representative. In Georgia, where I come from, the GeorgiaBio organization selects the candidate who will represent Georgia at the international competition. It’s how I met Mrs. Maria Thacker-Goethe - the CEO of Georgia Bio, a wellspring of energy, commitment, and passion.
My project was on a computational model to measure and classify lung function in children with scoliosis. Since middle school I’ve been interested in building solutions to medical problems. My own health challenges made me more sensitive to the struggles of those around me, leading me toward a path of advocacy and innovation. While my desire to advocate for the chronically ill brought me to iCAN where I am able to engage with thought leaders and activists, my passion for building solutions in healthcare exposed me to several platforms like Biogeneius.
The competition itself was part of a much bigger Biotechnology convention. Besides booths from every region’s Bioinstitutes, there were thousands of biotech giants showcasing the latest breakthrough in technology and research - biomarkers, immunotherapy, surgical tools, and robotics, to name a few. I was like a kid in a giant candy store! I presented my research for a whole day to scientists, students, biotech companies, and even venture capitalists. I attended panel discussions and speeches given by eminent biologists and biotechnologists. There was a super fun event called the Gene Pool pitch competition where we had to pull a random object from a box and incorporate the item into an elevator pitch for our projects. I pulled a rubber glove and proceeded to show how lungs can get punctured and the need for computational methods.
At BioGENEius, I not only experienced what cutting edge means in biotechnology, but also had the opportunity to interact with scholars and entrepreneurs who were determined to make biotechnology accessible and affordable. The best part, however, is that I made friends for life from all parts of the country.
If you are in high school, I strongly urge you to consider entering the Biogeneius competition. I also encourage all iCAN Youth Council members to apply for the iCAN Youth Council Leadership position. Both opportunities provided me with great opportunities to enhance my leadership and help improve patient centered care, research, and innovation for kids living with chronic, rare and complicated conditions.