Jack Andraka is a Maryland high school sophomore who, at age 15, invented an inexpensive and sensitive dipstick-like sensor for the rapid and early detection of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers. He talks about what some of his road blocks to success were, particularly the pay walls to research papers that made valuable scientific information inaccessible to him.
Jack Andraka is a Maryland high school sophomore who, at age 15, invented an inexpensive and sensitive dipstick-like sensor for the rapid and early detection of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers. After a close family friend died of pancreatic cancer, Jack (then a ninth grader) became interested in finding a better early-detection diagnostic test. He learned that the lack of a rapid, low-cost early screening method contributed to the poor survival rate among individuals with pancreatic cancer. After thinking further about the problem, he came up with a plan and a budget to put his ideas in motion.
He contacted about 200 research professionals at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health about his plan. He got 199 rejection letters and then finally got an acceptance from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who became his mentor. It was at Dr. Maitra’s lab where Jack developed his test.
The diagnostic method he developed is more than 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of pancreatic cancer's biomarker protein called mesothelin. This discovery earned him the grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where he received the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award – named for Intel’s co-founder – after competing with 1,500 other young scientists from 70 countries.
Since then, Jack has won the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Youth Award and has spoken at the Clinton Global Initiative, FutureMed, Chicago Ideas Week, Singularity U, and numerous TED events across the globe. He has been the subject of several documentaries, including Morgan Spurlock’s Sundance Film Festival entry You Don’t Know Jack, and Linda Peter’s award-winning film Just Jack. He has also been featured on ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, CNN, BBC, FOX, Rede Record de Televisão, and many radio, newspaper, and magazine articles around the world.
Jack is a member of the National Junior Wildwater Kayak Team, is a Life Scout, and has won numerous awards in national and international math competitions.