Behind the Headline: Allisa Song

When research scientist Allisa Song read ProPublica’s 2017 story “Drug Companies Make Eye Drops Too Big — and You Pay for the Waste,” she didn’t just get outraged. She got organized.

Get ProPublica’s Major Investigations by Email

The story, by reporter Marshall Allen, exposed how drug companies are making patients waste money by manufacturing eyedrops much larger than what they can actually use. Every eyedrop is bigger than what the eye can contain, many two to three times too large, causing the excess to spill out. “I already have such strong feelings about health care in the U.S. right now,” said Song, a neuroscience researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, who’s starting medical school next semester. “My reaction to the story was, ‘How do I stick it to the drug companies that are trying to screw over the patients?’”

Song assembled a team of like-minded friends and colleagues — her partner Elias Baker, a biomedical engineer; and Cristina Sainati, Jennifer Steger, Josh Cohen and Mackenzie Andrews, all graduate students from the pharmacology, bioengineering and MBA programs at the University of Washington — to develop a solution. They call it the “Nanodropper”: an affordable, universal adapter for eyedrop bottles, which minimizes the droplet size and reduces barriers to expensive prescription medicines.

After winning first prize in the Johns Hopkins Student Healthcare Design Competition, the team is currently seeking funding to manufacture the Nanodropper. “All the reaction we’ve been getting is, ‘How does a simple solution like this not already exist?’”

As scientists, Song and her team gained tremendous insight from ProPublica’s reporting. “We felt like we could really trust the article because of how well all the references and citations were done,” said Song. “I read it as it were a review in a scientific journal. Going through all the sources that were cited in the article was super helpful because we knew where to start in making a product that gave power back to the patient.”

More from ProPublica

ProPublica9 min read
How Nine Sheriffs Who Lost Reelection Made Life Harder for Their Successors
by Connor Sheets, Last year, 10 Alabama sheriffs lost their reelection campaigns. Afterward, nine of them took steps that their successors say negatively affected their ability to perf
ProPublica4 min readSociety
Discussing Alaska’s Long History of Sexual Violence Is One Step Toward Seeking Solutions
by Beena Raghavendran and Adriana Gallardo KOTZEBUE, Alaska — Tia Wakolee is a mother, grandmother and an artist. She also is a survivor of multiple rapes and sexual assaults. Wakolee recent
ProPublica2 min readPolitics
ProPublica Names 6 More Newsrooms to Its Local Reporting Network
by ProPublica ProPublica named six newsrooms and local reporters on Friday that will participate in the latest expansion of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, a program aimed at supporti