MEREWETHER High students are hoping to bring a device they invented to administer multiple medications without needles or pills to the Google Science Fair - and eventually elderly patients.
Year 10 students Lily Francis, Phoebe Parker, Sarah Pickering, Jeremy Thomas and Delta Hately received the Scientific Excellence scholarship prize for their invention at the University of Sydney's recent Bioengineering Innovation Outreach Challenge.
The university said it will provide them with resources and help to prototype their device, conduct experiments and gather data in preparation for the worldwide Google Science Fair.
Sarah, 16, said the team had viewed the challenge as "practice" and an opportunity to hear from researchers and speakers including Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.
At first, they thought they had received a participation award.
"It was such an astounding thing - we wanted to make a positive impact on the medical community and now we can push it even further," she said.
"We're grateful for the opportunity and the invaluable experience."
The group formed after Delta, 15, read about the competition in careers adviser Levina Abbo's newsletter.
The challenge asked students to develop an innovative device to cater for a shortcoming in medical technology.
"We can't cure cancer with our limited knowledge of biological concepts, but we wanted to look at a real problem that people have in their everyday life and try to make current devices better," Delta said.
She said current transdermal patches only delivered one medication, meaning a person who needed four types of medication would need four patches.
Frequent removal could lead to microneedles breaking and skin irritation. The team designed a patch that users could wear for seven days and involves sliding an interchangeable drug storage unit into a support case, attached to an adhesive microneedle base layer.
"Anyone would benefit from it, including young children and people with disabilities, but we're narrowing it down a bit more and think the elderly would benefit the most," Delta said.
The team said their design provided an alternative to using invasive needles or oral medication and would help improve patient compliance and sharps wastage, reduce the risk of administrative errors and make nurses' jobs easier.
They have been meeting twice a week to discuss how to take their design from concept to reality, including creating a contact list of who in the Hunter may be able to provide advice.
"We need a research proposal in order for Sydney University to give us access to their labs. We need to work out how to test it [without medical licences], what we would be measuring and equipment we need."