United States: 14-year-old Heman Bekele develops $10 soap to battle skin cancer, wins prestigious award
Bekele's innovative creation is a soap designed to aid in the battle against skin cancer, and it's expected to cost less than $10. The soap incorporates ingredients that have the potential to reactivate skin-protecting cells, empowering them to combat cancer cells.
Heman Bekele, a 14-year-old student at Fairfax County's Frost Middle School in the United States, has achieved recognition as America's Top Young Scientist. He was awarded this title after participating in the 2023 3M Young Scientists Challenge and secured the $25,000 grand prize, as reported by The Washington Post.
Bekele's innovative creation is a soap designed to aid in the battle against skin cancer, and it's expected to cost less than $10. The soap incorporates ingredients that have the potential to reactivate skin-protecting cells, empowering them to combat cancer cells. Speaking to the press, Heman expressed his excitement: "To see that all of the hard work paid off in the end, it was really a surreal experience."
The inspiration for his invention came from his time living in Ethiopia, where he observed people constantly exposed to the sun. While he didn't initially dwell on it, as the competition drew near, he remembered his experiences in Ethiopia and decided to focus his research on skin cancer. "I wanted to make my idea something that not only was great in terms of science but also could be accessible to as many people as possible," Bekele explained. He aimed to create a product that could become a "constant" in people's lives, prioritizing convenience and reliability.
As one of the top 10 finalists, Heman was paired with mentor Deborah Isabelle, a 3M product engineering specialist. She was deeply impressed by his passion and noted how he was focused on improving the world for people he hadn't even met.
Developing a prototype that combined the necessary compounds took months of experimentation. Bekele used computer modeling to create the soap prototype he presented at the championship. His Skin Cancer Treating Soap operates by using a compound to revive dendritic cells, which are typically destroyed by cancer cells. Once these dendritic cells are reactivated, they can effectively combat the cancer cells, effectively "reactivating the body's healing power" and reminding it "how to defend itself," according to Isabelle.
Heman underlined that while there are numerous creams available, soap has never been used for cancer treatment. In his presentation, he expressed his hope to turn the soap into a "symbol of hope, accessibility, and a world where skin cancer treatment is within reach for all."