WSU engineering graduate fights insect-borne illness with natural product line

Iyinoluwa Omishope, who recently graduated from Wayne State University with a bachelor's in industrial and systems engineering, is curating a line of all-natural skincare products and insect repellents to fight insect-borne illness worldwide.

"It doesn't make sense that people are dying at exponential rates from something that's completely preventable. That is the whole point of being an engineer: We make lives better," said Omishope. "If we can't do that for people who are in the most need, then there's no point of getting the degree and putting on the little ring."

Omishope got the idea to create her product line, It Comes Naturally, after being bitten on the cheek by a mosquito in her mother's garden. Her mother advised Omishope to use something from the garden to treat the bite, so she rubbed spearmint on it. When the swelling and redness reduced immediately and her sensitive skin was not agitated, she knew she needed to commercialize a natural remedy for those who need it most.

"For me, the insect bite was a nuisance, but there are people who suffer on a daily basis from horrible diseases such as malaria and Lyme disease," said Omishope. "Our mission is to save lives; we want to reduce the amount of insect-related death worldwide."

Omishope will accomplish this by donating her products to countries and individuals with a high risk of contracting insect-borne illnesses.

She is also committed to environmental sustainability, creating a program that will incentivize customers to return used product containers to the company, where they will be recycled.

Omishope has received support from a variety of sources, including the James and Patricia Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute, the Innovation Warrior Fund, OptimizeWayne, TechTown Detroit's DTX Launch Program, and a full team of advisors and mentors. After initially pitching her idea, Omishope received $5,000 from the Anderson Institute to continue her research and product development. She said it was the Institute's willingness to believe in her idea that gave her the motivation to grow it into the success it is today.

"Someone seeing something and saying, 'well, maybe this can work,' is how every great company gets started," Omishope said. "I think that's what the Anderson Institute is doing. They're taking on these little ideas and they're not discouraging people from shooting for the stars."

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of Exemplar.

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