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15-year-old nabs $100,000 top prize in Intel-sponsored competition; his "dipstick" test is 90 percent accurate

Jack Andraka.  Andraka.

"Keep that last name in mind. You're going to read about him a lot in the years to come.  What I tell my lab is, 'Think of Thomas Edison and the light bulb.' This kid is the Edison of our times. There are going to be a lot of light bulbs coming from him."

Those are bold words, bolder still given that their source is one of the top medical researchers in the nation.  But Dr. Anirban Maitra, a pathology professor at Johns Hopkins University firmly believes what he says.

I. HS Freshman Invents Test That's 100x as Sensitive

The invention is incredible.  A "dipstick" style sensor, it is 90 percent accurate at testing for pancreatic cancer in blood samples.  It's also being considered as a prime candidate for testing for other diseases.

When it comes to pancreatic cancer timing is crucial.  Late detection or refusal to seek treatment can be deadly.  Indeed, this same cancer took a great toll on tech luminary and Apple, Inc. (AAPL) founder Steven P. Jobs, first claiming his liver with its complications, and later his life.

Incredibly, Mr. Andraka, a mere boy at 15, claims to have come up with the underlying idea for his method at just 3 years old, when he found that by dropping objects into a flowing river, he could test the current.  Encouraged by his parents -- a civil engineer (his father) and an anesthetist (his mother) -- and their small library of science magazines, the spark grew in the young man's mind.

Jack Andraka and PI
Jack Andraka (left) and his advisor, Dr. Anirban Maitra (right)
[Image Source: CBS (left) Johns Hopkins Univ. (right)]

That spark grew into the fire of a bold idea, after Mr. Andraka emailed 200 Johns Hopkins professors, University of Maryland professors, and officials at the National Institutes of Health, trying to get somebody to let him use their lab to create a dipstick test for disease.

Most faculty members expressed little interest.  But after about 200 emails, Dr. Maitra received a message from the boy and was intrigued.  Months later they had a sensor that was an estimated 100 times more accurate than current tests, dozens of times faster, but critically much less expensive at only 3 cents per test.

Pancreas
Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease and early detection is critical.
[Image Source: About Cancer]

The test measures the level of mesothelin, a protein whose typically low levels spike in the bloodstream in individuals with early stages of pancreatic cancer.  Soon the test may be deployed "in the wild" saving many lives.

II. Honored For Excellence

For that amazing innovation a much deserving Mr. Andraka received the nod at the recent Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), winning the top $75,000 USD prize sponsored by Intel Corp. (INTC).

The young "Tony Stark" is only in high school at North County HS, a Baltimore, Maryland area school, but he is about to have a rare honor most high school students could only dream of -- speaking to the U.S. Congress.  He will deliver a talk next month as part of the Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day.

He comments, "It's been my childhood dream to go to ISEF, and I never thought I would go onto that stage as the Gordon E. Moore Award winner.  This was a big accomplishment for me. It fulfilled my biggest and wildest dreams.  But also, it means that I can actually get the word out about this deadly disease and this new test that I use to detect it."

While the freshman may be living an unusual life, he is a typical young man in at least one way -- he's fiercely competitive with his older brother, Luke.  Luke is also a ISEF winner, taking home $96,000 USD in 2010 for his work on how acid mine drainage affected the environment.

Intel Science Fair
Jack and his brother Luke are both Intel Science Fair winners. [Image Source: Hot Hardware]

Luke and Jack are testement to what natural talent, solid parenting, and a school that gives its excelling students flexibility to explore independent studies, can do.  Both young men look to have bright futures as inventors and entrepeneurs.

Source: Baltimore Sun



Comments     Threshold


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RE: WOW
By rodrigu3 on 5/25/2012 11:00:08 AM , Rating: 2
He's gonna be a rich man. Some pharmaceutical or medical tech company will probably try to buy the patent from him for many millions of dollars.


RE: WOW
By ltfields on 5/25/12, Rating: 0
RE: WOW
By ppardee on 5/25/2012 12:56:43 PM , Rating: 5
He could, but he's got probably 70 more years ahead of him. Imagine what someone with his drive and intelligence could do if he also had lots of funding and a really strong motivator (self-interest is always more motivating that altruism)over the course of 70 years...


RE: WOW
By bupkus on 5/25/12, Rating: 0
RE: WOW
By Mitch101 on 5/27/2012 12:46:32 PM , Rating: 1
Maybe more than 70 years if can prevent/cure even more possibilities before reaching them. If he does live up to Einstein levels Id chip in to cryostat him if he doesn't reach that level.

Still he will probably discover girls soon and they will ruin him.


RE: WOW
By JKflipflop98 on 5/27/2012 1:34:04 PM , Rating: 2
Remember David Kim.


RE: WOW
By dark matter on 5/26/2012 9:06:59 PM , Rating: 1
Well I'm sure whenever he goes out to the store, or the cinema, or to the theatre, or bowling, or just buying a Blu Ray, he can always get it on the house because "Hey, he's that guy who gave his idea away for free".

I'm sure that would work paying for groceries at Wal Mart.


RE: WOW
By Orchunter on 5/25/2012 11:06:44 AM , Rating: 5
And they are going to turn this 3 cents test into an expensive one with little to no improvement.

Nonetheless, this is a great achievement. Good job , kid.


RE: WOW
By anactoraaron on 5/25/2012 11:59:54 AM , Rating: 2
Who says current tests aren't that cheap already? Remember everyone involved gets paid when tests like this are done. The doctors, nurses, lab tech, janitors, the janitor's stepkid, etc. That's why tests are so expensive. How will this test be expensive? They need a 'dipstick specialist' to perform the exam, etc. /endrant


RE: WOW
By anactoraaron on 5/25/12, Rating: -1
RE: WOW
By ShaolinSoccer on 5/25/2012 5:20:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Does everyone on the internets today think these doctors and other specialists shouldn't be paid for their work?


Well, if it's something that can be easily done, why not? My diabetic grandmother doesn't need to go to the Dr. every time she needs to check her blood...


RE: WOW
By geddarkstorm on 5/25/2012 3:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
Shows the power of tenacity, constantly e-mailing labs till finally someone with the resources allowed him to put his idea into motion. We definitely need more of this sort of thing. We're most creative when we're young like this, and so many brilliant ideas die out simply due to the lack of resources and opportunity to try to put them into motion.


RE: WOW
By mmatis on 5/26/2012 12:26:58 PM , Rating: 2
Won't happen. I understand that the RIAA claims Bobby Brown owns copyright on this idea from one of his songs...


RE: WOW
By yourwhiteshadow on 5/27/2012 6:26:30 PM , Rating: 2
too bad the research he did was at a university, and that university or probably some government grant funded the research. probably at the end of the day the university is going to hold the grant and get all the money. such is academia...


RE: WOW
By GotThumbs on 5/29/2012 1:56:20 PM , Rating: 2
He is NOT an employee of that university, so he retains full ownership. Their may be some credit/$ that goes tot he university, but He is currently in discussions with patent experts to make sure his patent is solid and then it will be released.

A great example of the power of a young mans potential. So many of today's youth waste away in a chair in front of a computer game. I guess they figure Obama will take care of them after their parents kick them out. Sorry, had to get that political jab in.


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