Andraka was inspired by the death of his uncle from pancreatic cancer, spurring in him an interest in early detection. Currently, only 5.5 percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic survive for five years. At 15, he created a non-invasive paper sensor that detects an increase of a protein indicating the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during early stages when there is a higher likelihood of a cure.
According to London Evening Standard, Andraka’s test is “400 times more sensitive, 168 times faster and 26,000 times cheaper than today’s.”
Last year, Jack, a native of Crownsville, Maryland, won the prestigious George E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which came with a $75,000 cash prize. His test can even be applied to the detection of HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, but for his extraordinary achievements, Jack doesn’t think he’s all that extraordinary.
“I wouldn’t call myself smart,” he said. “I know people who are way smarter. But … I guess it’s how you use information. It’s about creativity rather than facts. I’m a creative thinker. My parents never told me answers. They told me how to think, not what to think. I disagree with our bulimic education system: learning by rote and then puking up all the facts in an exam.”
Jack goes to, what he describes as, a “really bad” school about “one to four times a month” because of his lecturing but keeps up online. When he is in class, he avoids the bathrooms; not because he gets bullied — “they don’t put geeks in lockers any more” — but that’s where all the kids are doing drugs. When prompted by the reporter if he ever gets into trouble with girls or alcohol, Jack simply replied, “I’m gay, so no. And I wouldn’t know where to find alcohol.”