Biotechnologist Dr. Hyat Sindi has dedicated her life to providing biomedical resources to those in need – and by resources, we mean everything from early educational opportunities, to investment in startup companies, to delivering final products to cheaply and easily diagnose disease.
Sindi was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, then studied pharmacology at King’s College London and earned a Ph.D. in biotechnology from Cambridge University, where she became the first woman from the Persian Gulf to earn a biotech Ph.D. She pursued further training at MIT and Harvard, much of her research being focused on “point-of-care” diagnostics – instead of patients having to travel to doctors (which can be in short supply in remote, impoverished areas), point-of-care technologies are portable tools that can be taken to the patients and that in some cases, patients can even administer themselves.
Sindi designed cheap but effective paper-based diagnostic tests; patients can put a drop of blood, saliva, etc. onto the paper and it will flow through chemicals pre-embedded in the paper. If something in the patient’s fluids interact with the chemicals, they change color, giving a readout of the patient’s health status. Her paper-based tests won MIT’s international $100K Entrepreneurship Competition (the first nonprofit to do so) as well as the Harvard Enterprise Competition.
Those were far from her only honors. She was named an “Emerging Explorer” by the National Geographic Society and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for her promotion of science education, especially for girls, in the Middle East. She was also one of the first female members of Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Assembly and is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board.
She also has found success (and helped others find success) as an entrepreneur. She founded and served as CEO of i2institute (Institute for Imagination and Ingenuity), an NGO that provides training and mentorship for young innovators in the Middle East. She also co-founded Diagnostics For All, which offers cost-effective point-of-care diagnostic tools
Great ideas don’t always come from people with the most money – how many great ideas are abandoned due to lack of funding? Sindi hopes to change this – in her role as Senior Advisor to the President of Science, Technology, and Innovation at the Islamic Development Bank, she helps oversee the “Transform Fund,” which provides funding and mentorship to help get resources to people who lack resources but not ideas.
If you want a free poster of her, artist Lidia Tomashevskaya has made a beautiful illustration of her for Women You Should Know, and you can download it here: https://womenyoushouldknow.net/downloadable-stem-role-models-posters/