Maryland 15-year-old Jack Andraka spent the past year developing and testing a screening procedure that can detect pancreatic cancer in the earliest stages. His extreme-science project won him the top prize and $75,000 in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
He modeled his test after diabetic testing paper and, according to WBAL-TV, created a dipstick sensor that tests blood or urine. His creation also detects ovarian cancer and lung cancer.
Andraka asked more than 200 researchers to work with him and the only taker was a now very proud Dr. Anirban Maitra. Here’s what he has to say about the project:
“This is, without question, one of the most lethal malignancies known to mankind, and very, very few people who get it survive. So, when there is a 15-year-old who writes with that much passion about making an early-detection test for pancreatic cancer, there is no way you cannot hit the reply button,” Maitra told 11 News.
The test is more than 90 percent accurate, 28 times cheaper, 28 times faster and also 100 times more sensitive then current screening tests for these types of cancer.
So what’s Andraka’s mom’s secret for raising a kid who can do this? Red-shirting, flashcards and expensive science camps? Nope.
According to WBAL-TV, North County High School freshman Jack Andraka became the winner of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for his invention after drawing inspiration from his uncle, who died from the disease.
“That’s what’s really cool about science to me — you can affect other people’s lives,” Andraka said. “You can basically do anything with science.”Andraka created a dipstick sensor that tests blood or urine and detects not only pancreatic cancer, but also lung and ovarian cancer as well. His sensor is 90 percent accurate and is 28 times faster, as well as cheaper. The sensor is also 100 times more sensitive than current tests for the disease
The precocious teenager said he was turned down by 200 researchers before Johns Hopkins University’s Dr. Anirban Maitra took a chance on him and allowed Andraka to develop the sensor in his lab.
“This is, without question, one of the most lethal malignancies known to mankind, and very, very few people who get it survive,” he said. “So, when there is a 15-year-old who writes with that much passion about making an early-detection test for pancreatic cancer, there is no way you cannot hit the reply button.”
This isn’t Andraka’s first science fair. "I really love science and science fairs because you get to meet these people that you would never meet before," he says. "Before this I was into the environment. A few years ago I was detecting bioavailable water pollution with glowing bacteria."
All of Andraka’s $75,000 in winnings will go to his college education. He plans on studying to become a pathologist. In the meantime, the high school student plans to start clinical trials with the sensor, meet with Quest Diagnostics, and get the product on the market within 10 years. What were you doing in high school?