Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Do you know the answer?

I stumbled upon something from a news feed.  That's why I know his name.  Mostly, I saw a video.  Not THIS video, but another video.

This is Jack Andraka.  He is discussing his entry in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  He's 15 years old. He's a high school freshman.  He's a genius.  In this video, he explains his entry in far greater detail than I can comprehend.  It's a test to detect pancreatic cancer.  He targeted pancreatic cancer for personal reasons.  With some modifications, and IF IF IF I am understanding this, there may be a version of this test for both ovarian and lung cancer. Those are three major players in the "We Suck at Treating These Cancers Because We Generally Find Them At Very Late Stages" ......

Jack sent his proposed research plan to roughly 200 different people.  These young people do their work in REAL labs in collaboration with experienced researchers.  In Jack's case, that would be Dr. Anirban Maitra, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  He was the only one who was willing to give Jack an opportunity to explore his ideas and it was in the lab of Dr. Maitra that this groundbreaking test to detect pancreatic cancer was developed.

I have these strips that I use to test the water in my swimming pool.  I dip the strip into the water and compare the colors against those on the container.  I can determine, among other things, if the water is properly chlorinated and if the pH level is within an acceptable range.  All based upon the colors on the test strip.

Jack's test is similar.  It's NON invasive.  It's a dip-stick sensor to test either blood or urine for early stage pancreatic cancer.  When it's treatable.  The test held up in a study and it was found to be 28 times faster, 28 times LESS expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests.  Accuracy?  Over 90% of the time, the test was accurate.

Jack is a young man who had an idea.  What sparked that idea to move him to these levels?  He says he had an idea when sitting in a biology class.  I say it was far more than "an idea" and kudos to Dr. Maitra for taking a chance.... for giving Jack a platform and the support to see where his idea would take him.

His idea will soon be taking him to The US Patent and Trademark Office.  The patent is pending.  The $75,000 prize that Jack says he will be saving for his college education?  Ah, the innocence of the young.  Does this exceptionally brilliant young man think he is actually going to PAY for his education?  The colleges have already lined up around the block with their offers of "a full ride."  He hasn't even taken his SAT's if he's following normal academic high school routine.  He's a FRESHMAN.  With FRESH ideas.

He can take the $75K and do what most other young men his age would do.  First, get mom some flowers for providing the transportation from school to the lab.  Not that mom wants them.  Mom's gift was just knowing Jack was working in a world class lab.  Making it to the finals?  The icing.  Winning?  There's really nothing on the mom-o-meter to properly capture the emotions she had to feel when she heard his name announced.  NONE.

So, Jack...... Rest assured.  College?  From undergrad through post doctoral..... all covered.

My suggestion, if I may?  Go buy a smokin' hot car.  That's what all guys in high school strive to achieve.  The First Car.  

Actually, there is a minor issue.  Jack is too young to drive.


  1. Jack sounds like an extraordinary young man! Maybe he will really find a cure for these dreadful cancers. Wait -- all cancers are dreadful. But the ones you listed are definitely the ones often found too late.

    1. That this young man was able to do this at FIFTEEN simply blows me away. Passion and a fresh perspective, untainted by bureaucracy equates to amazing things.

  2. This is a WONDERFUL story! I have a very dear friend who is an 13 year survivor of stage IV ovarian cancer. She is my hero. There is always hope and Jack is providing a lot more of it.

    1. Hi N...
      Good for your friend. I like to hear good things, especially when it comes to bad cancers. And yes, Beth is right. All cancer is dreadful. Some are just worse than others because they are harder to treat......


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