Alumna Rebekah Scheuerle Recognized for Research Preventing HIV Transmission During Breastfeeding

Rebekah ScheuerleRebekah Scheuerle (B.S. ChE ‘13), the newly elected President of the Gates Cambridge Scholars Council, has won a National Instruments (NI) Engineering Impact Award in the Biomedical category for her use of LabVIEW and NI DAQ hardware to verify devices that prevent HIV transmission between mother and child during breastfeeding.

According to the World Health Organization, the global infant mortality rate is 4.6 million per year, a figure which could be reduced with increased access for infants to appropriate methods of administering existing medications. This award recognizes Scheuerle’s work in the University of Cambridge Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology to engineer systems for validating a novel device for delivering life-saving medications and nutrients to breastfeeding infants.

“Our device, the Nipple Shield Delivery System, when worn by a mother during breastfeeding, releases medications directly into milk consumed by an infant,” said Scheuerle. “This device could be disposable and contain therapeutics that do not require refrigeration, making it a hygienic method of infant drug delivery that could be especially useful in resource-limited settings.”

With support from National Instruments hardware and software, the team has built breastfeeding simulation apparatuses which they use to test drug delivery out of the device under physiologically relevant conditions. As part of their research, they have collaborated with JustMilk, a non-profit organization supporting the project; the University College London School of Pharmacy, who supports formulation development of potential medications to deliver with the device; and the University of Venda, which supports their ongoing end-user acceptability studies in Limpopo, South Africa.

The work has been enabled by financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and the UK Government.

During her time at UT Austin, Scheuerle researched better ways to deliver proteins for treating diseases to key sites in the body in Professor Nicholas Peppas’ lab . She also served as a two-time president of the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and was a member of the Longhorn Band.

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