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.