Jack Andraka had just seen some cool carbon nanotubes his Civil Engineer dad brought home. They intrigued Jack so much that he read up extensively on them. Jack said, "They have these amazing properties. They are stronger than steel. They conduct electricity better than copper.” Teachers thought he was daydreaming when he was half-listening in class when he was really chewing on what he was learning. His Biology teacher confiscated a magazine Jack was reading because she could tell he wasn't paying attention. She was surprised to see the magazine he was reading was Science, and he was reading about the uses of Nanotubes.
A few weeks earlier, a close family friend died of Pancreatic cancer. This must have been in his mind as he learned more about those cool nanotubes. Jack realized that the nanotubes could be used to detect an early marker of Pancreatic cancer, an overabundance of the protein Mesothelin in the blood. Early detection of Pancreatic cancer changes the odds considerably in the treatment and cure of this deadly cancer.
Jack wrote up his idea and sent it off to over 200 researchers. Only one responded-- a researcher named Dr. Anirban Miatra who was working at John Hopkins University nearby. Dr. Miatra liked the idea and gave Jack a chance to pursue this research. Meeting in his lab after school for several months, Jack perfected the system and it worked!
Jack tweaked this system to use paper as the testing strip, not nanotubes. This makes his test inexpensive (3 cents per test). Initial evidence shows that his test is 90% accurate and only takes 5 minutes and a fraction of a drop of blood to administer. It is also accurate at testing for Ovarian and Lung cancers as well, since they also throw off the same Mesothelin protein as an early marker.
Along with over $100,000 in grant and prize money, this must have been a great Science Fair project! Jack earned the distinction of inventing a revolutionary life-saving test, all while he was still barely a teenager. Now when he submits research ideas to researchers, I'm convinced they will listen.
Dr. Miatra thinks Jack is destined for greatness. He said, "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."