Google and a 15 year old high school student make a great research team. Jack Andraka devised a test for cancer that outshines current diagnostics. He did it by locating information on the Internet regarding analysis using carbon nanotubes, cancer biochemistry, and reading free online scientific journals.
At the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) his creation earned him the Gordon E. Moore Award named in honor of Intel co-founder and retired chairman and CEO. His reward included $75,000. With that and the patent he has applied for this young man should go far. He is now doing research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in his home state of Maryland.
Andraka’s paper-sensor dipstick subjected to a blood or urine sample reacts to pancreatic cancer, as well as ovarian and lung cancers. The antibody-coated carbon nanotube solution is engineered to bind with a specific virus or protein. His interest in the subject arose when his uncle died from pancreatic cancer, a deadly form that fells 94.5 percent of its victims within five years. Historically, screening for the disease has been slow, only moderately accurate, and expensive. Andraka’s approach has eliminated all these hurdles. Testing proved 90 percent accurate, faster, and much cheaper.
After submitting 200 proposals for his plans with a projected budget in an attempt to gain laboratory assistance, one professor, Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, finally accepted his proposal.
Maitra’ interest runs along a path similar to Andraka’s. His work involves identifying biomarkers for early diagnosis of cancer and studies of changes that precede cancer. He has been concentrating on gastrointestinal malignancies, especially those of the pancreas
Andraka shares a scientific bent with his brother, Luke, who was a tenth grader in 2011. Part of the STEM program at his high school, Luke won an MIT THINK Award for a project that examined how acid mine drainage affects the environment.
Science magazines are prevalent at home and the Andraka family table is its own think tank where Mom, Dad and the boys talk about how people came up with their ideas and how they would do it differently.
You can listen to Jack’s own story on YouTube.