Hamline University student helps develop new tool to test drug quality

Sarah Bliese can certainly tell the real from the fake.

If you notice pride in the 21-year-old Hamline University senior’s stride, she’s earned it.

The aspiring chemist studies substandard pharmaceuticals collected in western Kenya.

Recently featured at the American Chemistry Society’s national conference, Bliese’s research has already had global implications in pharmaceutical testing.

“We look at the degradation of the product, how stable is it, what level of quality of the product is getting to patients,” Bliese told Fox 9.

During a trip to Kenya with her mentor, Marya Lieberman, Bliese trained members of the World Health Organization and Interpol how to use a game-changer in pharmaceutical testing. It's a small card Bliese helped create called the Paper Analytical Device or “PAD”.

“It's a faster screening tool, so you're able to detect substandard pharmaceuticals potentially before they make it to the patient,” said Bliese.

The PAD costs less than a dollar.

“The common way right now to pick up pharmaceuticals and identify them would be using high performance liquid chromatography. That instrument on the cheaper end is $30,000,” she said.

Not to mention, depending on backlog, forensic lab testing could take weeks, even months.

“The PAD itself takes about three minutes to run to completion,” said Bliese of the PAD’s potential.
She hopes to soon see the PAD in the hands of investigators on the streets.

“Ideally it's just another tool to be able to combat the issue that seems almost too large to deal with,” she said. “It's another tool to be able to screen a lot of drugs simultaneously without having to use all the expensive equipment.”

Bliese, a first generation college student from Alexandria, Minnesota, will graduate from Hamline by the end of December.

“You can prove 'em all wrong and you can prove it to yourself that you can do whatever it is you want to do,” she nodded.

In true go-getter fashion she heads to Notre Dame in January to earn her PhD.