MIT Technology Review Arabia, a Majarra platform, has announced the winners of the prestigious Innovators Under 35 MENA Awards. The aim of this recognition is to honor exceptional innovators with superb expertise who have made notable contributions in their fields. The winners of the 2023 edition have presented ground-breaking innovations and research that have contributed positively to changing the way people live and made a quantum leap around the world.
This year witnessed a substantial number of candidates from various fields such as technology, biotechnology, computer science, programming, medicine, energy, environment, etc. The judges' committee composed of preeminent experts and specialists from various sectors has evaluated each application, considering their feasibility and social value.
Winners of the 2023 Edition of the IU35 MENA Award
The nominees for the sixth edition of the IU35 MENA Award underwent an evaluation process by a committee of judges comprising 13 distinguished and independent technology experts, entrepreneurs, and academics affiliated with renowned think tanks, leading technology companies, and prestigious universities around the world. Based on their evaluation, MIT Technology Review Arabia has selected 15 innovators as winners of the IU35 MENA Award for this year.
The list of winners for this edition included 7 female and 8 male innovators, while the United Arab Emirates emerged as the country of residence for 40% of the winners, followed by the United States of America and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The winners represent various countries, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and Sudan.
The winners of the sixth edition of MIT Technology Review Arabia's IU 35 Award are as follows:
1. Hadeel Elayan: A Jordanian postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern University. She invented Terahertz-Electromagnetic signals to sense and control protein folding using plasmonic nano-antennas. Her work stands out due to its innovative approach, applying wireless communication principles to biological interactions at the nanoscale—a concept inspired by the complexity and efficiency of evolving biological systems. By viewing every biological interaction as a form of communication involving information exchange, She uses nano-antennas as transmitters within the intra-body environment, treating it as a communication channel. In her framework, protein molecules serve as receivers, allowing for a deeper understanding and manipulation of biological processes. This groundbreaking methodology not only bridges the gap between synthetic technologies and biological systems but also opens new possibilities for nano-communication.
2. Hamed Albalawi: A Saudi PhD candidate at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). He has creatively used 3D printing for coral restoration and bone regeneration stemmed from the need to find innovative solutions to address medical and environmental challenges. Hamed's innovation offers a promising approachto enhance bone-healing and accelerate the restoration of corals, offering hope for medical treatments and endangered ecosystems.
3. Jad Kabbara: A Lebanese research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has developed Generative AI to better understand community conversations at scale. His primary motivation for his work is to seek new ways, alternative to social media, to involve people in civil dialogue and civic engagement in a safe and respectful environment based on trust, and to use AI to automate the understanding of the resulting conversations.
4. Salam Khalifa: A Sudanese PhD student at Stony Brook University (SBU). She has developed a cognitively motivated computer modeling of Arabic morphology. Salam’s innovation is to generate a simplified general model for learning the different aspects of Arabic morphology using the least possible amount of data. Since Arabic is expressed in different but related dialectal varieties, it is expected that generalizations that apply to one dialect will apply to closely related dialect to an extent. This fact is then leveraged, and the learned generalized model is applied to neighboring dialect and then examined for the potential exceptions which are then studied in order to improve upon the model and enhance its generalizability. This model is then used to create deployable language technologies that are readily usable in NLP pipelines and in other aspects of Computational Linguistics.
5. Walaa Khushaim: A Saudi postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has successfully invented a user-friendly, miniature point-of-care test capable of rapidly and accurately detecting multiple heart attack biomarkers simultaneously. The uniqueness of this system lies in its rapid detection of multiple critical cardiac biomarkers within 15 minutes, offering high sensitivity for early and precise diagnosis of heart attacks and heart disease. It stands out with its user-friendly design, eliminating the need for expert intervention.
6. Dani Kiyasseh: A Syrian artificial intelligence research scientist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (CMS) in the United States of America. Dani has worked innovatively on developing an artificial intelligence system that provides surgeons with feedback on their performance for surgical training. This system is able to reliably assess the quality of a comprehensive set of skills, explain the reasons for the assessment, and be fair when providing such assessments, whereby the AI system can be equally applied to all surgeons regardless of their gender or race, making it widely acceptable.
7. Mohanad Alkhodari: A Palestinian PhD student at the University of Oxford. He has successfully developed "HyTwin", an artificial intelligence-based digital twin for the assessment of hypertension progression using multi-organ multi-modality imaging measurements. This tool was integrated in a user-friendly software to simplify usage for non-technical users with visually-friendly interpretations; which would lead to simpler implementation in clinical settings.
8. Ubadah Sabbagh: A Syrian neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who has developed genome engineering to develop new tool for studying psychiatric disorders. He has developed genome editing methods like CRISPR to create two new genetic tools for interrogating and manipulating brain cells in a region known as the “thalamus”. These tools have not been available to the scientific community before. Moreover, the types of neurons in the brain that can be accessed using these tools have never been studied before.
9. Hoda Farahat: A Lebanese research assistant at the American University of Beirut (AUB). She invented a pair of earrings that are composed of antenna arrays operating within the millimeter-wave range capable of constantly monitor changes in glucose concentrations in diabetic patients through the arteries and veins in the patient’s neck.. This innovation is distinguished by the ability to continuously sense glucose variation in blood at a distance and in a contactless manner. This innovation can be expanded to develop other wearable accessories and link them all together in a network of body sensors.
10. Hessa Alfalahi: An Emirati PhD student at Khalifa University (KU). She has created an artificial intelligence-based application that simulates a stethoscope for early diagnosis of depression and Parkinson’s disease using typing data on smartphones. The novel smartphone application “TypeofMood” aims to analyze the natural interactions of users with the keyboard to detect psychomotor impairment associated with depression.
11. Yazan Ibrahim: A Palestinian research assistant at the Water Research Center at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD-WRC). He has developed surface-patterned water filtration membranes to improve water permeability and resistance to sediment formation on the membranes. This innovative approach not only tackles crucial water treatment issues but also prolongs membrane lifetime, improves membrane permeability, and reduces environmental impact by minimizing the need for frequent membrane replacements.
12. Asmaa Jrad: A Lebanese postdoctoral associate at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). She has invented an advanced water filter featuring molecularly tailored covalent-organic framework active layers for highly efficient elimination of emerging contaminants. Unlike specialized filters that only remove emerging contaminants, Asmaa's method ensures a comprehensive solution, avoiding competition with conventional filters vital for removing standard pollutants.
13. Hazem Ibrahim: An Egyptian PhD student at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) who is working on building frameworks to analyze the impact of generative artificial intelligence on higher education. Hazem has pioneered the study of ChatGPT detectors in the context of university assessments, as well as methods to obfuscate text to avoid detection. Throughout this process, he collaborated with government officials and experts in education studies to help guide educational policies on AI plagiarism and its impact in the classroom..
14. Hend Mohamed: An Egyptian research scientist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). She has developed a zero-emission, self-sustainable technology that converts industrial wastewater into green energy. This technology significantly reduces the capital cost of the MFC technology by 50%, paving the way for global commercialization of self-sustainable green energy production. This groundbreaking green technology promises to have a positive economic and environmental impact worldwide, mainly benefiting the economies of Gulf countries.
15. Wael Othman: A Syrian postdoctoral associate at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). He has successfully invented "LaparoSense", an improved sensory system that aims to address the absence of tactile sensation in minimally invasive surgery. This system would increase safety during surgery by preventing tissue damage and improving the diagnostic process by accurately detecting tumors and inflammation.
About IU35 MENA Award
The IU35 MENA Award is an annual event held by MIT Technology Review Arabia since 2018. It is the regional version of the global award launched by MIT Technology Review in 1999 and has featured a number of public figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, and Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google.
The award aims to celebrate the most prominent innovators, both males and females, under the age of 35 who have presented state-of-the-art inventions and studies.
Since its launch in 2018 so far, the Award has been received by 70 innovators from the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Kuwait, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Oman, Türkiye, the United States of America, and Bangladesh.
It is noteworthy that three of the winners of the IU35 MENA in 2019 won the global version of the Award in 2020. These exceptional winners are Ghena Al-Hanaee from the United Arab Emirates, Omar Abu Dayeh from Palestine, and Mohamed Dhaouafi from Tunisia