Cuban engineer nominated for a European union award

HAVANA, March 10 Cuban David Fernández Rivas has been chosen as one of the three finalists for the Prince Friso Prize for Engineering awarded by the European Union

for an innovative method of injecting people without the traditional use of needles.

The Cuban engineer specialized in nuclear facilities obtained his nomination after the project that he is currently developing together with a research team from the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, to get patients vaccinated without resorting to injections.

Graduated in Engineering in Nuclear and Energy Installations between 2000 and 2004, at the Higher Institute of Sciences and Advanced Technologies of the University of Havana, Fernández Rivas was concerned about biomedical sciences and oriented his career in that sense.

During a conference he attended in Algeria in 2006, a colleague he met on a visit to the Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, offered him the possibility of developing this project, according to the magazine Juventud Técnica in an article. 

In an interview to this medium, Fernández said he was proud of his dual status as a scientist and an immigrant: “There is a double pride: on the one hand, being an engineer and having worked on so many different issues (…) on the other, there is the value as an immigrant and having been trained in Cuba, being able to put the name of the country and Cuban education high is always something valuable, “he explained.

The engineer offered some details about the project that occupies it and the importance for science and society: “Our needleless injection method is based on heating the liquid to be injected with continuous-wave lasers as an energy source

Heating results in the formation of a rapidly growing vapor bubble. Due to the confinement provided to contain the liquid within a channel of microscopic dimensions and the explosiveness of the phenomenon, the liquid in front of the bubble is expelled at speeds of around 360 km / h ”, the engineer begins his explanation.

“The high speed and the small dimensions of the liquid droplets (or jet) approximately 50 µm, allow them to pass through the skin causing imperceptible damage”, he details about the almost real possibility of immunization without a needle penetrating the skin.

Regarding the contribution to society of this new method, the Cuban assured: “The risk of contamination with biological material (in traditional vaccination) is always present. Diseases such as HIV / AIDS and hepatitis tend to be the most common contagious, with outbreaks of these infections caused by vaccination campaigns ”.

This new method would reduce the risks of contamination events such as those described by the engineer. “During this first moment, injections without needles have been used for medical tattoos.

I have chosen to start with medical tattoos because the ink used is not affected by the heat of the laser, as it can happen with the medicines; this is a good time to test the technology and learn.

Learning can lead to using the same technology in recreational tattoos, something very popular lately, ”explains Fernández Rivas about the first implementations of his project. “Additionally, there are many treatments that work better if injected intradermally.

The list is long, but to serve as an example that there are vaccines that are more effective in those superficial layers and not intramuscularly ”, assures the young man about the relevance of such a finding. David is also a researcher at the University of Twente and founder of spin-offs InkBeams and BuBclean.

The winner of the important award will be announced on March 17, and the public can cast their vote through the website of the Royal Institute of Engineers, until the 15th.