Endowed with an infectious zeal for transforming scientific theories into accessible, life-saving innovations, Esse Aigbokhan shines brightly as an emerging star in biotechnology and biomedical engineering. Her moment in the spotlight began with the award of a national science prize in Nigeria a few years ago, where she stood out as the sole female honoree. She earned this recognition for her academic ingenuity and contribution to creating a life-saving medical device designed for children with neonatal jaundice. Esse’s incredible career journey is proof that dreams can indeed become reality when it is service-oriented and pursued with unwavering determination.
Esse was born in 1993 into a middle-class family in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, and she spent most of her formative years in Lagos, the country’s former capital. Living in the city’s suburban areas, she experienced the struggles of individuals who lacked access to essential medicines for themselves and their children. This exposure sparked a determination in her at a young age to make a difference. Her opportunity arose when she was appointed as the health prefect in her high school, where she championed good hygiene practices within the school community. This experience further fueled her passion, leading her to pursue a degree in Biomedical Engineering. She excelled in her studies, graduating with honors at the top of her class.
Esse embarked on her professional journey in 2017, following her mandatory one-year national service, when she joined GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Pharmaceuticals in Nigeria as part of the Future Leaders Program. Her commitment to making medical innovations accessible was demonstrated through the numerous campaigns she spearheaded, particularly those aimed at addressing diseases like asthma in children. Her efforts were recognized within the organization, as she was repeatedly honored with multiple global awards. Her achievements reflect the values that GSK holds in high regard, which is evident as the company has consistently been ranked at the top of the Access to Medicine Index for eight consecutive years.
After earning her Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis, Esse is now on the verge of completing her Ph.D. at the same institution. Her thesis focuses on the advancement of microbial therapeutics, a burgeoning field with the potential to revolutionize the treatment of cancer and rare genetic disorders. Her pioneering research addresses a significant challenge in therapeutic biologics – systemic immune activation and adverse drug reactions, particularly following parenteral administration. This innovative approach holds the promise of transforming drug delivery methods, potentially reducing treatment costs, and enhancing the overall quality of life for patients.
Alongside her academic endeavors, Esse has co-founded a startup aimed at improving the access and utilization of Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) services using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Despite evidence that DSMES improves diabetes outcomes, its uptake remains low, as noted by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). The startup is harnessing the power of Generative Pre-Trained Transformers (GPT) to make DSMES more accessible and engaging. This solution, which uses state-of-the-art instruction-tuned models calibrated with confidence scores, aligns with the objectives of the Healthy People 2030 program, which strives to eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and promote health literacy to enhance the health and well-being of all.
Esse is a staunch advocate for healthcare access. When she’s not immersed in her research or developing AI tools, she lends her expertise to healthcare startups as a consultant, provides advice on global health issues, and mentors the next generation of scientists. In addition to her professional commitments, Esse balances her personal life as a wife and actively volunteers at her local church, further showcasing her dedication to her community.
In conclusion, Esse Aigbokhan’s journey is a compelling narrative of passion, innovation, and unwavering dedication in the realms of biomedical engineering and healthcare accessibility. From her early recognition in the scientific community to her impactful contributions at GSK, she has consistently demonstrated a commitment to pushing boundaries and making a tangible difference. As an emerging leader, entrepreneur, and advocate, her story serves as an inspiring beacon for aspiring scientists and engineers globally, emphasizing the transformative power of service and tenacity.