If you’re feeling anxious about how U.S. kids lag the world in science and math, or just in a funk about politics or the mess in Europe, take in this story of a high school freshman from Crownsville, Md. who came up with a prize-winning breakthrough that could change how cancer and other fatal diseases are diagnosed and treated.
His name is Jack Andraka, and he loves science and engineering with every inch of his 15-year-old soul. It was after his uncle and a close family friend both died of pancreatic cancer that Jack became interested in finding a better early-detection diagnostic test. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is usually detected too late to save the patient.
Jack contacted about 200 people including researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health with a proposal to work in their labs. He got 199 rejections and then finally got an acceptance from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. It’s at Maitra’s lab where Jack worked daily after school, on weekends and over holidays until he developed his test.
Why did a 15-year-old beat out billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies with his diagnostic test? Perhaps as a young person with no experience, he hadn’t yet learned what everyone else in the industry “knew couldn’t be done.”
The Lesson: You don’t necessarily need a giant team, billions of dollars in resources or even more than 15 years of life experience to do something amazing.
Jack joins us today to tell us his story.