Meet Jack Andraka…medical entrepreneur, education activist, global change maker…and still in high school.

When he was just 15 years old, Jack won the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award in the category of Medicine and Health Sciences at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public.

His entry was a sensor that tests for pancreatic cancer. What makes his invention so special? Well, compared to current tests, it’s…

  • 168 times faster—takes 5 minutes to run
  • Over 26,000 times less expensive—only 3 cents per test
  • Over 400 times more sensitive—close to 100% accuracy rate

“I became interested in pancreatic cancer research because a close family friend who was like an uncle to me, passed from the disease,” Jack explains. “But what I found is our current methods for pancreatic cancer detection are really outdated. They’re 60 years old—that’s older than my dad. Also they’re really expensive, like $800 per test. And they’re grossly inaccurate—missing 30% of all cancers. Then also they’re barely ordered, because pancreatic cancer doesn’t show any symptoms. It has like abdominal pain—who doesn’t have abdominal pain sometimes? I wanted a routine test that was accurate, inexpensive, and easy to use.”

And Jack is just getting started.

He has assembled a “team of the most, elite, like prestigious science prodigies in the entire world” and they’re going after an X Prize next. He chose all teenagers because, as Jack explains, “once you’re over 30, you have these pre-conceived blinders on, so you can’t really do as much innovative thinking as teenagers can.”

“My first work … is going to be making something called a Raman Spectrometer,” says Jack. “Raman Spectroscopy is such a powerful tool, just because it tells you exactly what’s inside something. So you can look at environmental management, you can look at national security. You could say, is that a bomb or is that just a drink? So then, you could potentially bring your drinks onto an airplane finally.

And then also it could tell you for example, whether you have a disease or not. And what’s so cool to me is that I can actually look at your blood and say these few proteins have to be there. So that means you must have this disease. Essentially, I’m taking something that’s the size of a room and shrinking it down to the size of a sugar cube. And also I’m shrinking its price from $100,000 dollars down to $10 dollars. I’m making it more sensitive, but also so that it can measure all of your blood. So I’m advancing the field of Raman Spectroscopy by a lot here.”

Check out the video of his win here: