Jack Andraka may seem like an average guy. He likes mountain biking, kayaking, watching the Simpsons and doing many other average activities. But Andraka is far from an average 19 year old. For starters, he invented a method of detecting pancreatic cancer that is 28 times faster, 26,000 times cheaper and over 100 times more sensitive than current diagnostic tests. Oh, and did I mention that he invented it four years ago, at the age of 15?
Check out the short video below to see how his scientific breakthrough came into fruition, and keep on reading to see what made him so determined to complete it.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer one can get. It is estimated that someone who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer for five or more years only has less than an 8% chance of surviving.
These are statistics that Andraka knows all too well. When he was just 14 years old he lost a close friend to the deadly disease. There is no specific symptom unique to pancreatic cancer to make people aware of it growing in their body, so by the time most people get to the doctor that cancer has usually spread to other organs, reducing an individual’s chance of survival significantly.
This ordeal inspired Andraka to turn his love of science into something useful that could help prevent more cases of death caused by pancreatic cancer. Determined, he began reading everything he could about the disease, including its biomarkers, which are characteristics specific to it that can be easily measured.
After finally coming up with an idea to test for the cancer, he contacted countless labs to help fund his project and allow him to use their resources. Almost everyone he contacted said no, except for Dr. Anirban Maitra, who was the professor of oncology at John Hopkins University at the time.
After some intense scrutinizing of Andraka’s theory, he was finally able to use lab at John Hopkin’s with a full research team at his assistance, and the rest is history.
Fast-forward four years, and Andraka has just completed his first year at Stanford University, while at the same time giving talks and lectures all over the world.
For more information, check out this article.