In 2016, 17-year-old Kavya Kopparapu invented Eyeagnosis, a 3D-printed lens system and mobile app. The device snaps a photo of the retina and analyzes it with artificial intelligence to diagnose diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes complication that can lead to blindness, without the need for an extensive eye exam.
Kopparapu’s grandfather, who lives in a small town in India, inspired the invention. “He was lucky he had the means to go to a major hospital and get diagnosed, but a lot of people in developing countries or rural areas might not have an available ophthalmologist,” she says. She's tested Eyeagnosis at a hospital that provides outreach care to poor neighborhoods in India. "Right now they're using traditional equipment, carrying around bulky retinal cameras on the backs of motorcycles."
Eyeagnosis isn't Kopparapu's first invention. During her freshman year at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA, she developed the MediKey mobile app, which lets EMTs quickly and securely pull medical information from unconscious patients’ smartphones.
In 2015, the realization that she was one of few girls in her school’s elective science class led Kopparapu to found GirlsComputingLeague. This nonprofit organization hosts workshops for girls in underfunded schools who lack access to computing and science resources. In October 2017, she hosted her own Artificial Intelligence Summit, bringing together industry leaders and students to introduce a new generation to the technology.
Between running a nonprofit organization and inventing medical devices, Kopparapu has served on the board of an interactive science museum and collaborated on research projects with Stony Brook University and the National Institutes of Health.
Her goal is to blend her passions for health care, medicine, and computer science into a career -- and inspire other young women to follow her path. “I want to make an impact on students who want to pursue computer science and make them more confident in their abilities, skills, and future.”
Where Is She Now?
Now 18 and a student at Harvard University, Kopparapu has a second AI summit under her belt and a summer internship with the Core Machine Learning team at Apple.
She’s currently testing out a new technology she’s developed to diagnose the deadly brain cancer glioblastoma. GlioVision uses a scanned biopsy image to give oncologists detailed information about a tumor faster and less expensively than current DNA-based methods.
“I’ve found my niche in using computer science to make biological technology more accessible,” she says.