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Meet the gay teen who invented a test for cancer at age 15

Meet the gay teen who was responsible for a major medical breakthrough before he was even out of braces
Jack Andraka
Photo by Benjamin Quinto

16 year-old Jack Andraka doesn’t think he’s that smart but last year he invented a nearly 100% accurate test for pancreatic cancer that has the potential to save thousands of lives.

A straight-A student since the age of 11 in a public school where half the kids don’t graduate, Andraka’s discovery won him top prize at the International Science and Engineering Fair and $75,000 towards his college tuition – plus another $100,500 in other prize categories.

Andraka came up with the idea last year after reading an article on carbon nanotubes in a journal and realized that nanotubes could be used to suspend a protein which if coated onto strips of filtered paper would create a cheap and accurate test for pancreatic cancer.

Andraka became interested in pancreatic cancer after a family member and his personal hero, Steve Jobs, both died from it.

In order to develop his idea further Andraka wrote to 200 professors to ask for their help. Only one was willing – Dr Anirban Maitra at the Sol Goldman Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Andraka had to officially be a ‘volunteer’ on the project to avoid the university running foul of child labor laws.

And his discovery may lead to improved testing for a range of other illnesses.

‘You can switch the antibody to detect all kinds of diseases- HIV and AIDS, Alzheimer’s, heart disease,’ Andraka told The Standard newspaper.

Asked by The Standard whether he ever got into trouble or was interested in girls, Andraka replied, ‘I’m gay, so no, and I wouldn’t know where to find alcohol.’

And even before graduating high school Andraka has another big goal ahead for him.

He and a group of other teens have entered the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE competition that will be judged and decided at the end of 2015.

The goal of the Tricorder X PRIZE competition is to create a device the size of a smart phone that can make reliable health diagnoses, which would be available directly to consumers at anytime, anywhere.

These days Andraka is such a sought after speaker he rarely makes it to school more than a couple of days a month and he presented a talk at yesterday’s TEDxHousesofParliament event in London.

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