Intel’s inside look at 15-year-old Jack Andraka’s scientific genius

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Andraka science class
Jack Andraka studies hard during his high school science classes.

While scientists around the world receive millions of dollars to study cancer, a humble 15-year-old named Jack Andraka came upon a ground-breaking discovery in cancer detection. All it took was some whiz-kid smarts and serious willpower!

It all started when his uncle died from pancreatic cancer, an illness that attacks the human pancreas. See, the pancreas is a 6-inch long, spongy organ behind the stomach, and is very important in releasing digestive chemicals, as well as creating hormones, life-sustaining juices, and insulin (which balances our sugar levels).

Andraka still remembers when his uncle died from pancreatic cancer, and the doctor said “maybe if we’d caught it earlier…” He felt hopeless. What could a simple kid have possibly done to save his beloved uncle? Rather than just throwing his hands in the air, though, he decided to dive right into the medical science. The doctors words kept haunting his mind, and so Andraka came up with a simple question…

Why not try to detect pancreatic cancer earlier?

To find a solution, he asked 200 experts for help. However, only one doctor of oncology (a branch of science that studies cancer) from Johns Hopkins was willing to help him out, providing Andraka with a lab after school. The teen succeeded, developing a test for pancreatic cancer that’s 26,000 times less expensive than the current one, 168 times faster, and 400 times more sensitive! This amazing discovery earned him the Grand Prize at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Recently, Intel released a heart-warming video of Andraka’s story, which you can enjoy below. Truly, his story of teenage courage and smarts is an inspiration.

Images and video courtesy of Intel on YouTube.