Meet Gitanjali, who at the age of 13 saw that opioid addiction was directly affecting her community and decided to do something about it.

“There were so many teens getting into prescription opioids, and before anybody knew about it, it was too late to do anything…I wanted to come up with a way to diagnose prescription opioid addiction at an early stage so you can take action earlier.” For her Technovation Girls submission, Gitanjali built Epione, an AI-powered medical device that helps diagnose opioid addiction at an early stage and allows patients and doctors to monitor symptoms of addiction and abuse.

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How Epione works

Epione is a portable device that allows users to test samples for the elevated presence of proteins, a signal indicating high amounts of opioids in the body. The more protein in a sample, the darker the sample becomes when analyzed. Gitanjali explains that then “the device takes a picture of the analyzed sample …the app cuts that picture down to a region of interest and compares it to a set of pre-calibrated images. It creates almost a spectrum of what a sample would look like without addiction and what a sample would like with addiction…Based on where [your sample falls on that spectrum] it can tell you if you’re addicted to prescription opioids.” Gitanjali’s work on Epione earned her a place as a Technovation Girls finalist in 2019.

Gitanjali named her tool Epione after the Greek goddess of soothing, care, and recovery—qualities that she hopes an earlier diagnosis and intervention might bring to those struggling with opioid addiction.

The technical features of Epione and it’s specific focus impress us, but Gitanjali’s long-term vision and dedication—she readily acknowledges that her research will likely take another 2 years before the app is ready to bring to market—tell us that we will be hearing much more from Gitanjali in years to come.

[Edit: In 2020, Gitanjali was named Time Magazine’s first-ever Kid of the Year. She also created another app with Technovation Girls called Kindly, which uses AI to detect text-based cyberbullying.]

Opioid-related overdoses killed more than 47,000 people in the US in 2017, the same year that opioids were responsible for about two-thirds of all drug-related deaths globally. Despite how widespread this problem is, only 1 in 7 people with opioid abuse disorders receive the help they need. All of which makes Gitanjali’s efforts even more impressive. Taking her passions—STEM research and a commitment to helping others—Gitanjali is using the skills and resources at her disposal to fight for a better world.

You can help build a better world too.

If you’re a girl between the ages of 8 and 18 who also wants to make a difference, sign up for Technovation Girls, where you’ll learn how to build a mobile app or AI-powered tool to solve a community problem, and what it will take to launch that product as a business.

If you’re an adult, thousands of girls around the world could use your support and expertise as they learn about new topics and develop their skills. Your support and encouragement could make all the difference and help a team of girls become leaders and innovators. Learn more about how you can get involved.