Vatican Honors Gay Teen Scientist For Groundbreaking Cancer Test

By now the name Jack Andraka should sound familiar. The teen whiz invented an award-winning early detection test for pancreatic cancer and he also had one of the best reaction shots in recent memory:


The 16-year-old junior from Crownsville, Maryland continues garnering accolades for his revolutionary test, this time from an unlikely source: the Vatican.

Andraka received the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award, named after an Italian architecture student who died at age 26, that recognizes exceptional youth.

“It’s really amazing to be recognized by the Vatican, especially as a gay scientist,” Andraka told WBAL News. “I mean this would be unheard of just a few years ago. To be part of this bridge of progress is really amazing.”

The Vatican hasn’t always had the best track record with LGBTs (to say the least) but since that quitter Pope Benedict hung up his Louboutins, his replacement, Pope “Who Am I To Judge?” Francis, has taken a softer and far more compassionate approach. Before heading to Berlin, Andraka had his “fingers crossed” for an audience with His Holiness.

“It just shows how much the world has grown to accept people that are gay and are LGBT,” he added.

Inspired by the death of his uncle from pancreatic cancer, Andraka became interested in early detection; 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.

His simple but highly effective test (nearly 100-percent accuracy) won Andraka the top prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. He’s currently in talks with two biotech firms to further study and manufacture the test, but Andraka says it likely won’t hit the market for another five to 10 years.

In the meantime, he’s leading a group of high school scientists in developing a smartphone-sized device to detect even more diseases, as well as promoting “open access” to scientific and medical journal research. In creating his pancreatic cancer test, Andraka had to read thousands of scientific journal articles, at about $35 a pop.

“[I]t was very cost prohibitive,” Andraka said. “Because of this we have this big disconnect between youth and science. A Katy Perry single costs 99-cents. A science article costs $35, so there is big mixed message.”

The message seems pretty clear: Katy Perry is ruining the youth of today. God speed, Jack Andraka.

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  • 2eo

    He’s spot on, there is a massive disparity on society, the more intelligent are hounded, hated and loathed while the stupid celebrity obssessive, religious and other subnormals run the show.

  • Dakotahgeo

    I am so proud of tis young man! My sister-in-law died of pancreatic cancer in 2004 and I look forward to the day when this scourge is wiped out or under control of medicine. Good going, Jack!

  • Cam

    True, and this Pope IS much better.

    HOWEVER, plenty of rac-ists had black maids and I’m sure they would compliment them on a job well done.

    Nice of them to recognize this young scientist, and they could really show their thanks by stopping the witch hunt against gays in their local parishes.

  • AuntieChrist

    My question is why 5 to 10 years? I don’t know enough about the process of approval but it smells a little fishy to me….[His simple but highly effective test] (nearly 100-percent accuracy) So what’s the hold up?

  • jfabz

    @AuntieChrist: Scale. It’s one thing to build the strips, one by one, you can act as QC while you’re building it. But it would be time consuming wouldn’t it? The infrastructure to build the test while reducing waste due to QC would take several years, the cost to make will probably rise as well since someone has to pay for the infrastructure.

  • Palmer Scott

    @AuntieChrist: Because what works in a lab doesn’t always work outside of a Petrie dish.

    There will be human tests that will run in at least two stages. Then analysis of the collected data and then clearance by the FDA.

    Then, and only then, will the test be released for general use.

  • AuntieChrist

    I did an extensive search for Giuseppe Sciacca an Italian architecture student who died at age 26. I found nothing. I used Bing, Google,and Wikipedia. Why no info on a person that such a prestigious award is named after?

  • AuntieChrist

    @Palmer Scott: Thank you. THAT I understood. I am not a science geek just a dizzy Donna Reed type.

  • 2eo

    @AuntieChrist: About 2,560,000 results (0.32 seconds)

    Straight search for his name.

  • AuntieChrist

    @2eo: I did that, all I got was some old guy at the vatican born in 1955 still alive.

  • Rockery

    Congrats! This is the best example for any young gay youth!

  • redcarpet

    Werk it Jack, WERK IT!

    Was the semi-shady gif really necessary though? He’s still a kid.

    He’s especially right about the jorunals. Personally, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be a matter of public record, for free. If Aaron Swartz taught us anything it’s that there is a lot of big money behind scientific journal publishing.

  • Dixie Rect

    Here’s a gay youth that should be applauded for academic achievements. It’s wonderful to see this young man make such a huge contribution to society. Here’s someone who actually accomplished something truly meaningful, as opposed to people like Colby Melvin, Lance Bass and Queerty favorite Robbie ‘blah’ Rogers.

  • 21stCenturyBear

    Such a heart warming story. I applaud this young man’s skill and ingenuity. I’m sure this is just the start of what will be an amazing career in medical research and development. I truly hope he achieves his goal of preventing others from suffering the loss of a loved one as he did.

    I’d also like to say that everyone contributes in their own way. Just because we don’t all develop a test for detecting cancer it doesn’t mean our contributions aren’t as valid as the next person.

  • LadyL

    16 and already a scientist of note. Well done, Jack! So proud of you.

  • Kangol


    It is bizarre that the only pages that pop up under the name Giuseppi Sciacca show this 55-year-old Vatican official.

    I searched the Vatican’s official news site, and there’s no mention of Andraka. Hmm.

    If you type in a search on the Vatican news site for “science award”, nothing involving Andraka comes up.

    If this story is real, I think it’s great.

  • Kangol

    And Jack Andraka really gives me hope for the future!

    (Closing the italics tag!)

  • balehead

    And nobody complains about the Southern Baptists on here…

  • stevearies40

    I searched Giuseppe Sciacca… it came up with the vatican guy….. then I put a + sign after it and google came up with “Giuseppe Sciacca award”

    Just to let you know.

  • Ogre Magi

    I bet the Vatican is going to try to proselytize him

  • jwtraveler

    It is great to see a young gay man recognized for his mind and not his body. Also great that he is confident and open about being gay without focusing on it excessively. A tribute to good parenting, I would guess.

  • BrandoPolo

    Jack should be careful. This could all be a lure by some Vatican priest who wants another underage conquest.


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