Meet Jack Andraka, a HS student who at age 15 developed a test that might save countless lives by detecting early pancreatic cancer
Over 85 percent of all pancreatic cancers are diagnosed late, when someone has less than two percent chance of survival.
So when news broke in 2011 that a test had been developed that might detect early pancreatic cancer, the research world not only took notice, it went into shock – for the test hadn’t been developed by some renowned cancer research institute, but by a boy wonder, a 15-year-old high school freshman named Jack Andraka.
Jack convinced an eminent cancer researcher to let him use his lab to develop his theory, all before he even had a license to drive. While the test must undergo years of clinical trials, the biotech industry has already beaten a path to Jack’s door.
Jack beat out 1,500 contestants to win won the grand prize at the Intel International Science Fair with his invention. The self-described science geek received $100,000 in prize money.
Interview with Jack:
Jack Andraka: I swear, she has, like, eyes on the back of her head or something. She sees me. And she storms up to my desk and is like, “Mr. Andraka, what is this?” and, like, snatches it out of my hand.
Morley Safer: As if you had Playboy Magazine right?
Jack Andraka: Yeah, yeah. I’m just like– it was just a science article. Shouldn’t this be a good thing?
When he told his parents Steve and Jane Andraka about his project they weren’t exactly encouraging.
Steve Andraka: My reaction wasn’t a good one. I sa– I s– “Jack, isn’t that a little far-fetched?
Jane Andraka: And I know that when you’re 14 you can’t just run out and get a lab. A lot of people, you know, are like, “We don’t train middle schoolers.”
But Jack decided to find one that did. Over the course of four months he prepared a test protocol for his theory and sent it out to 200 cancer researchers.
Jack Andraka: I essentially had to send them my budget, my procedure, my timeline and materials list. And I actually got 199 rejections out of those. Some professors ripped apart my procedure completely. But one professor, Dr. Anirban Maitra, finally said yes.