For many people who are not familiar with his work, Jack Andraka is an ordinary teenager who enjoys everyday activities like mountain biking, kayaking, watching the Simpsons, and others.
But, what distinguishes this boy from the others kids his age is that Jack has 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. And he did all of it when he was only 15 years old!
With a surviving chance of only 8%, pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancer forms. There aren’t any specific symptoms that indicate the disease, which allows the cancer to spread undetected for years. Andraka is well familiar with these statistics and with the disease, because when he was 14 he lost his best friend to it.
This unfortunate event inspired Jack to turn to science and create something that will help people prevent the cancer from spreading and allow them early detection. He began reading everything he could about the disease, including its biomarkers, which are characteristics specific to it that can be easily measured.
When he finally came with the final concept of the test, he contacted many labs to fund his project. Most of them turned down his offer, except Dr. Anirban Maitra, who was the professor of oncology at John Hopkins University at the time. Eventually, he was finally able to use a lab at John Hopkin’s with a full research team at his assistance, and the rest is history.
Today, Jack has just completed his first year at Stanford University, while at the same time giving talks and lectures all over the world.
The short video below shows how Andraka’s breakthrough came into fruition.