aha!award 2016 - the awarded ones

aha!award 2016

The prizewinners: (back row) Jury President Dr. med. Martin Pletscher, Reto Abt, Ivan Müller, Dr. OIiver Brandt, Benjamin Wegenstein, Niculin Meyer for Philipp Kemmler (absent), jury member Prof. Dr. med. Peter Schmid-Grendelmeier. (front row) Joan Germann, Nicoletta Bianchi, Esther Guex, Philipp Burch, Erny Niederberger, Dr. Georg Schäppi.

Automatic pollen identification in real time

Erny Niederberger, Reto Abt and Philipp Burch

Allergies to pollen are becoming increasingly common. However, the technology for monitoring current pollen counts dates back to the 1950s: Samples of pollen are typically collected once a week and determined and counted by laboratory personnel. Due to this time delay, it is not possible to provide an up-to-date warning or an accurate forecast. As a spin-off of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, the start-up company Swisens AG aims to solve this problem. Erny Niederberger, Reto Abt and Philipp Burch want to detect and identify individual pollen directly in flight using optical measuring instruments of the latest generation. In future, this should provide measurement data on regional pollen levels in real time, so that allergy sufferers can prepare themselves in good time and take measures if necessary. In addition to better temporal resolution, according to the project manager, a much finer regional resolution than before is also to be achieved. The new measuring methods will not only measure and identify pollen, but also fine dust or mould spores, for example.

In a feasibility study financed by the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI), the three winners of an aha!award 2016 were able to prove that the measurement method they had developed works. In a follow-up project, field-suitable devices are now to be built and tested outside under real conditions. Afterwards, the three entrepreneurs want to manufacture the devices industrially. 

Philipp Burch also received the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts 2016 award for his master's thesis on the development of an innovative measuring system for aerosols as part of this project.

Pastry, bread and salty products without gluten

Sonja Henauer

In her completely gluten-free production facility, Sonja Henauer has developed a new range of desserts, breads, pastries and other salty dishes that take into account the three most important food intolerances and allergies: gluten, lactose and milk proteins. The company "Sonja, Dessert & Santé" in Cully, canton of Vaud, aims to help people with food intolerances and allergies to no longer feel excluded at the table. And affected children should be able to enjoy dessert and birthday cake. The types of flour Sonja Henauer uses vary according to the recipe. Rice, millet, quinoa, tapioca and corn flour, for example, are guaranteed gluten-free. 

Together with her husband, Sonja Henauer also opened a tea room and a chocolaterie in the centre of Cully in 2009, where food intolerances and allergies are taken into account (gluten, dairy products, nuts). There, people with coeliac condition can enjoy baked goods, quiches, breads and refined gluten-free chocolates without worries and can also take them home. Sonja, Dessert & Santé" is guaranteed gluten-free: Suppliers present certificates of analysis on the origin of the individual ingredients, employees are not allowed to eat gluten-containing food in the laboratory and must always change - both on arrival and during breaks. In future Sonja Henauer also plans to offer more salty dishes, croissants and chocolate ggli.

Holidays for guests with coeliac disease or lactose intolerance

Philipp Kemmler

Eating out is a challenge for people with gluten or lactose intolerance. This is especially true during the holidays. An offer of the "National Park Region - Health Region" is dedicated to the holiday requirements of guests with a coeliac disease or lactose intolerance. In the holiday region Scuol Samnaun Val Müstair a network of more than 30 providers of gluten and lactose-free products has been created thanks to the cooperation of Philipp Kemmler, in order to enable those affected to take a carefree break. The network has been continuously expanded and currently 14 hotels, 18 restaurants, 10 holiday apartments and 8 shops, cafés and bakeries offer a gluten- and/or lactose-free range of meals - from Müstair to Scuol to Samnaun. Several times a year there are also special activities such as gluten-free aperitifs or gluten- and lactose-free cooking or baking courses. The employees of all partner companies also receive expert training twice a year.

The regional development project "National Park Region - Health Region" was launched in 2011. Under the auspices of the Lower Engadine Health Centre and within the framework of a partnership with Tourismus Engadin Scuol Samnaun Val Müstair AG and the University of St. Gallen, new, innovative offers have been developed, including the gluten and lactose-free holiday offer. The diet cook Michael Langen from Ospidal in Scuol played a central role in its development. He realised the project together with a nutritionist, a doctor for internal medicine and an affected tourism expert.

Keyword turntable for people with gluten intolerance

Esther Guex and Nicoletta Bianchi

About one percent of the European population is affected by celiac disease (gluten intolerance). Currently, the only therapy is a completely gluten-free diet. If those affected adhere too little or not at all to an appropriate diet, serious health problems can occur.

In 2009, Esther Guex and Nicoletta Bianchi participated in the review of the information dossier for members of the Association Romande de la Cœliakie (ARC). Both are active in therapeutic training and further education and have turned part of this revision into a practical aid tool, a "keyword hub". With this tool they want to support people with gluten intolerance and help them to achieve as much independence as possible in their daily lives. 

In order to choose a gluten-free finished product, the buyer with celiac disease must know what is contained in it. For this reason, a list of key words has been drawn up and included in the information dossier, followed by further explanations for each ingredient. Esther Guex and Nicoletta Bianchi decided to turn this list into a practical and useful tool by designing the list as a turntable - modelled on a parking disc. The prizewinners are convinced that a better knowledge of food and a better understanding of the information on its labels contribute to the right choice of food. This helps people to stick to their diet better and stay healthy. The hub is soon to be translated into German and Italian so that it can be distributed throughout Switzerland.

Prevalence of sensitization to common allergens and atopic diseases among school children in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Dr. Oliver Brandt, Ivan Müller, Benjamin Wegenstein

Hay fever, allergic asthma and neurodermatitis are diseases that occur all over the world and considerably impair the quality of life of those affected. They also cause high economic costs due to medical treatment and sickness-related absences from work. For decades, it was assumed that these diseases were of particular relevance to economically strong countries. During the last few years, however, it has become apparent that allergies are also on the increase in developing and emerging countries and are now as common as in the western world. Dr. Oliver Brandt and his team have conducted a study in South Africa to identify children with allergies and guide them to appropriate therapy and to train their parents in how to deal with the diseases. This spring, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, a thousand children participating in the so-called DASH study (Disease, Activity and Schoolchildren's Health Study) were examined for allergies. This project of the Department of Sport, Physical Activity and Health and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute of the University of Basel as well as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University is investigating the frequency of worm infections, physical fitness, cognitive performance and psychosocial health of children from underprivileged backgrounds as well as possible existing relationships between the individual parameters.

The results of Dr. Oliver Brandt's study will now be combined with other data collected in the DASH study in order to identify possible interrelationships between allergies and other diseases as well as socio-demographic characteristics.

Small bakers without gluten

Joan Germann

The book "Petits pâtissiers sans gluten" (Little bakers without gluten) contains 20 cookie and cake recipes that children can easily bake at any time of the year and on any occasion. This book by Joan Germann, unique in Switzerland, was developed especially for children with gluten intolerance (coeliac disease). When making her selection, Joan Germann made sure that the recipes are really child's play and that the baked goods taste just as good as gluten-containing pastries. Because the author is not only a nutritionist, but also the mother of a daughter with coeliac condition. All the recipes were tried out repeatedly and finally found to be delicious by family and also by friends who do not suffer from gluten intolerance.

It is a colourful book for a young audience. Each recipe is accompanied by a picture and drawings that explain step by step to the child how to make the pastries. In the introduction, the author explains in simple words what coeliac disease is and why it is so important to eliminate gluten from the diet. This is followed by tips on how to select the products and how to prepare them. In addition, recipes that contain lactose are marked separately so that people with lactose intolerance can recognise them. Thanks to this book, all children can have fun baking, even those who suffer from coeliac disease or lactose intolerance. The recipes are also practical for camp leaders or teachers who often have contact with affected children. They now have a valuable tool for preparing delicious gluten-free pastries for snacks and desserts. 

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