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The most recent honor among many for EKU associate professor Dr. Jason Marion comes for his work in water purification research to help low-resource countries like Kenya and rural counties in Kentucky. Marion won the 2021 Global Health and Innovation Conference (GHIC) Innovation Prize in May. He won the $2,000 prize for his development of “ColiGlow: A Novel Low-Cost Kit for Quantifying E. coli from Water in Low-Resource Environments." Marion teaches and conducts research in Environmental Health Science at Eastern Kentucky University, and is the founder and CEO of Eastern Scientific.

“Throughout the process, I was honored to be even a semi-finalist and eventually a finalist for the recognition, let alone the winner. The recognition is rewarding and immensely humbling,” Marion said. “Knowing my peers in global health along with world leaders in global health, innovation, and philanthropy put their support behind the ColiGlow product, and me, in the presence of such other strong ideas, is wonderful as it affirms the awesome purpose of our product developed with some support from the Board Innovation Fund at EKU.”

The Global Health & Innovation Conference (GHIC) is an annual event that dives deep into bold ideas, transformative innovation, and responsible global engagement. The GHIC Innovation Prize “is a $2,000 cash prize that is awarded to the best social impact pitch that is presented,” according to GHIC. The prize supports “outstanding ideas, programs, and organizations that are locally-developed and locally-responsible.”

Marion entered into the virtual competition, held annually at Yale University (but which has been virtual the past two years). Marion was one of the early winners of the EKU Innovation Fund for his work in this area

Marion said the prize money will be used to further supporting those who face clean water issues. “The prize was for $2,000 and I have committed to using 100 percent of those funds for assembling the ColiGlow test kits to provide to my colleagues in Kisii, Kenya for evaluating fecal contamination in the many springs in their community and other water sources used for drinking water consumption,” Marion said. “The prize and recognition is just the beginning of a long-term commitment to producing kits for both citizen scientists in the U.S., aid organizations, and others. Surplus funds earned in higher-resourced areas can go to providing our ColiGlow kits to philanthropic groups, government agencies, and community groups committed to improving their water supplies but just needing empowerment with data and testing resources.”

Through a fluke of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, Marion was able to attend the conference virtually. He said Eastern’s innovation fund was the reason he thought he could be successful at GHIC. “The in-person attendance coupled with my teaching commitments (in a normal year) made it tough to attend, and this year, I noticed it would occur online, so I gave it a shot to compete and having an idea and data in hand, I thought the ColiGlow pitch would be successful. Their conference was a key reason for why I even pitched the ColiGlow idea for the Board Innovation Fund, with the hope I could one day compete to provide a better E. coli testing method for the world or at least the communities where I have worked alongside EKU students, ( ” Marion said.