Natalie Ng, a junior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Calif., won the International BioGENEius Challenge, the premier competition for high school students that recognizes outstanding research in biotechnology. Ng’s research in breast cancer and biomarkers helped her stand out from the 13 other finalists from across the U.S., Canada and Australia competing for the Challenge's top prize, a $7,500 cash award.
The International BioGENEius Challenges is one of the few international competitions to host participants at a leading industry conference, and this year, Ng and the other finalists had the opportunity to share the stage with a group of rising stars in science and healthcare who Forbes deemed the brightest stars under the age of 30.
"At a time where our nation is concerned about simply engaging students in the sciences, the BioGENEius Challenge fills a gap by providing exemplary students with further encouragement and support," said Amy Finan, president of the Biotechnology Institute, the organization that hosts the Challenge. "This Challenge enables students to continue their research and design an original, independent research project."
Ng was not only evaluated on the quality of her research, but also on her presentation in small and large group settings and her responses to questions testing her scientific knowledge. Moreover, the students’ research was judged on the potential commercial applications of their project. Her project, titled, “Advancing Precision Medicine: MicroRNA Prognostic Signatures and Prediction Models for Distant Metastasis-Free Survival in Breast Cancer,” seeks to investigate the role miRNAs play in mediating growth, invasiveness and metastasis of breast cancer cells.
The second, third, and fourth place winners, who won $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000, respectively were: Jiho Park of Irvine, Calif.; Eric Chen of San Diego, Calif.; and Selin Jessa of Coquitlam, British Columbia.
The U.S. National and International BioGENEius Challenge is organized by the Biotechnology Institute, a U.S.-based organization dedicated to biotechnology education. Generous co-lead supporters of the Challenge include Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of leading global pharmaceutical company Sanofi, and Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.
"Sanofi Pasteur is thrilled to once again be involved in a competition that gives young innovators an opportunity to showcase their cutting-edge scientific research," said Jeffrey Almond, Ph.D., vice president for discovery research at Sanofi Pasteur. "The civic-minded young people that we saw on the stage today are poised to do great things and help solve many of the challenges of tomorrow."
Jay P. Siegel, M.D., chief biotechnology officer and head of global regulatory affairs, Janssen R&D, said, “Janssen applauds these student scientists for their innovative ideas in applying biotechnology to solve some of society’s toughest challenges. As a science-based organization we recognize the critical importance of nurturing the biotechnology leaders of the future and we are proud to support these extraordinary students and the BioGENEius program.”
Support for the BioGENEius Challenge is also provided by International Supporters: the Astellas Foundation, Genentech and MedImmune; and U.S. National Supporters: Acorda Therapeutics, the Allergan Foundation, BioMarin and Sangamo BioSciences.