A fifteen year-old freshman from Crownsville, Maryland has won the Gordon E. Moore award ($75,000 US) at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair which was held this year (2012) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jack Andraka won the prize for his design of a simple pancreatic cancer detector that is over 90% more accurate, 28 times faster, 28 times cheaper and 100 times more sensitive over current testing methods. His device is similar to diabetes testing kits in that it uses a test-strip and meter to analyze certain proteins found in blood or urine. That’s where the similarities end as Jack’s paper sensor is coated with carbon nano-tubes that have the ability to detect high-levels of mesothelin (MSLN) proteins.
These high levels are associated with diseased cells commonly associated with pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer. Jack states that his device is capable of detecting these forms of cancer before it becomes invasive and metastasizes and goes on to say that it costs only 3 cents and 5 minutes to run, making his device practical for routine screenings. In order to test his device, Jack needed the use of a medical lab and was turned down 200 times from various researchers before Dr. Anirvn Maitra of Johns Hopkins University took interest and invited the young scientist to use the University’s lab. After two months of development, Jack was successful at designing the simple paper sensor and even went so far as to patent it.
In order to get the device to consumers, he has to go through a process that could take several years or more with getting FDA approval and then convincing medical insurers that the device is cost affective. These are minor hurdles considering his device can detect these cancers quickly which enables faster treatment, giving the patient a better chance of going into remission.