In June, we introduced you to 16 year-old Jack Andraka, the gay teenager who invented an award-winning, affordable test that detects pancreatic cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages. On this week’s 60 Minutes, Morley Safer sat down with Andraka to talk about his test and what it’s like to be one of the most influential teenagers on the planet.
“Really, I don’t think it’s that I’m really smart,” Andraka told Safer. “I mean, I know people that are way smarter than me. You can be a genius, but if you don’t have the creativity to put that knowledge to use, then you just have a bunch of knowledge and nothing else. I mean, like, then you’re just as good as my smartphone.” Even if science is Andraka’s best subject, he also clearly skilled at reading.
Last year, Adraka beat 1,500 adolescents to win the $100,000 grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering fair. His reaction to winning the award is a textbook example of a “gay panic.”
“I wasn’t expecting any awards there,” Andraka said. “Then when I won, I was just flabbergasted, I was like freaking out, I was like, ‘What! Me?’”
Since then, Andraka’s test continues to show promise, and Andraka hopes to license it to a pharmaceutical company soon. But he doesn’t want to be, as he puts it, a lab rat who performs the clinical trials himself. He explained to Safer, “I kind of want to be able to come up with a new idea and then really just move on to the next idea and have other people do the repetitive trials.”
These days, Andraka still attends public high school outside of Baltimore, but his attendance has taken a nosedive recently. He’s busy traveling the world to give lectures and attend conferences, not to mention all the face time he’s been getting with the First Family. In the past year, Andraka as been invited to the White House four times.
Although the 60 Minutes piece never addressed Andraka’s sexuality, the teenage whiz has not shied away from discussing it elsewhere. Four months ago, when an interviewer from the London Evening Standard asked whether he was into girls and drinking, Andraka replied, “I’m gay, so no. And I wouldn’t know where to find alcohol.”
Take a note, gays. In more ways than one, Jack Andraka is the future.