Jack Andraka

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jack Andraka
Jack Andraka 2013.jpg
BornJack Thomas Andraka
(1997-01-08) January 8, 1997 (age 17)
ResidenceUnited States of America
FieldsCancer research, medical research, invention
Jump to: navigation, search
Jack Andraka
Jack Andraka 2013.jpg
BornJack Thomas Andraka
(1997-01-08) January 8, 1997 (age 17)
ResidenceUnited States of America
FieldsCancer research, medical research, invention

Jack Thomas Andraka (born 1997) is an American inventor, scientist and cancer researcher. He is the recipient of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Andraka was awarded the $75,000 Award, named in honor of the co-founder of Intel Corporation, for his work in developing a new, rapid, and inexpensive method to detect an increase of a protein that indicates the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during their early stages when there is a better survival rate than when they are diagnosed later.[1] In addition to the Gordon E. Moore Award, Andraka also won other prizes in smaller individual categories for a total of $100,500 in prize money.[2] Andraka won a fourth-place award in Chemistry at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a project focusing on a novel Raman spectrometer with real world applications.


Jack Andraka was born in Crownsville, Maryland. He has given a number of accounts of what inspired him to work on pancreatic cancer, including the death of a family friend whom he described as almost an uncle.[2][3][4][5] These various narratives have been told by him as recently as his talk in TEDxNijmegen 2013. In looking for answers, he found that one reason for the poor survival rate from pancreatic cancer was the lack of early detection and a rapid, sensitive, inexpensive screening method.[6] According to his account, his teenage optimism left him undeterred, and he went on to consult "a teenager's two best friends: Google and Wikipedia",[7] also drawing upon content from YouTube.[8] He began to think of various ways of detecting and preventing cancer growth and terminating the growth before the cancer cells become invasive.

In an interview with the BBC, Andraka said the idea for his pancreatic cancer test came to him while he was in biology class at North County High School, drawing on the class lesson about antibodies and the article on analytical methods using carbon nanotubes he was surreptitiously reading in class at the time.[9] Afterward, he followed up with more research using Google Search on nanotubes and cancer biochemistry, aided by free online scientific journals.

Andraka talks about his work
Andraka in an interview with Francis Collins on open access.

He then contacted 200 professors at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health with a plan, a budget, and a timeline for his project, hoping to receive laboratory help. He received 199 rejection emails before he got a positive reply from Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.[10]

The result of his project was a new dipstick type diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer using a novel paper sensor, similar to that of the diabetic test strip. This strip tests for the level of mesothelin, a soluble cancer biomarker first described by Scholler and colleagues in PNAS in 1999,[11] to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer. The test is over 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of mesothelin.[1] According to Andraka, it is also 168 times faster,[third-party source needed] 1/26,000 as expensive (costing around three cents),[third-party source needed] over 400 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests,[third-party source needed] and only takes five minutes to run. He says the test[ambiguous] is also effective for detecting ovarian and lung cancer, due to the same mesothelin biomarker they have in common.[5] However, any practical usefulness of the test remains to be seen, according to Susan Desmond-Hellmann, oncologist and chancellor of UCSF. Much more testing, possibly over several years, is needed to demonstrate that the test can catch cases early and reliably enough.[12]

Professor Maitra is very enthusiastic about Andraka's future. He told the Baltimore Sun "You're going to read about him a lot in the years to come... What I tell my lab is, 'Think of Thomas Edison and the light bulb.' This kid is the Edison of our times. There are going to be a lot of light bulbs coming from him."[2]

In October 2013, Andraka appeared as a guest on The Colbert Report.[13]

Cancer detection method[edit]

Andraka cultured MIA PaCa cells, from a commercial pancreatic carcinoma cell line, which overexpress mesothelin, a biomarker[14] for ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancers. The mesothelin was isolated, concentrated and quantified with ELISA.[6] After optimization with the Western Blot assay, the human mesothelin-specific antibodies were mixed with single-walled carbon nanotubes and used to coat strips of ordinary filter paper. This made the paper conductive. The optimal layering was determined using a scanning electron microscope. Cell media spiked with varying amounts of mesothelin were then tested against the paper biosensor and any change in the electrical potential of the sensor strip (due to the changing conductivity of the nanotubes) was measured, before and after each application. Specifically, what happened was this:

The antibodies would bind to the mesothelin and enlarge. These beefed-up molecules would spread the nanotubes farther apart, changing the electrical properties of the network: The more mesothelin present, the more antibodies would bind and grow big, and the weaker the electrical signal would become.[10]

A dose-response curve was constructed with an R2 value of 0.9992. Mr. Andraka claimed that his tests on human blood serum obtained from both healthy people and patients with chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (a precursor to pancreatic carcinoma), or pancreatic cancer showed a similar response. The sensor's limit of detection sensitivity was found to be 0.156 ng/mL; 10 ng/mL is considered the level of overexpression of mesothelin consistent with pancreatic cancer. Andraka claimed that his sensor costs $0.03 (compared to his estimation of $800 for a standard test[15]) and 10 tests can be performed per strip, taking 5 minutes each. According to him, the method is 168 times faster, 1/26,667th as expensive, and 400 times more sensitive than ELISA, and 25% to 50% more accurate than the CA19-9 test.[6]

Officials at Intel have said that Andraka's method is more than 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of mesothelin.[1] He has patented his method of sensing pancreatic cancer and is communicating with companies about developing an over-the-counter test.[9]


Many of Andraka's claims do not stand up to rigorous peer-reviewed research. For instance, a 2011 article published by Sharon et al.[16] refutes many of Andraka's claims about specificity of using mesothelin as a biomarker for pancreatic cancer. Specifically, the group showed that mesothelin serum levels in healthy donors 0.58 (0.15 – 0.72) nmol/l were not statistically different from serum levels in pancreatic cancer patients 0.66 (0.52 – 0.94) nmol/L. In addition to this issue of false positives, George M. Church, professor of genetics at Harvard University, has raised concerns about the cost, speed, and sensitivity claims.[12]

None of Andraka's work has so far been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Personal life[edit]

Andraka at Capital Pride in 2014

Jack's father, Steve Andraka, is a civil engineer. His mother, Jane Andraka, is an anesthetist. She told the Sun "... we're not a super-athletic family. We don't go to much football or baseball." "Instead we have a million [science] magazines [and] sit around the table and talk about how people came up with their ideas and what we would do differently."[17] Andraka has Polish ancestry.[18]

Jack's older brother, Luke, won $96,000 in prizes at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2010, with a project that examined how acid mine drainage affected the environment. In 2011, Luke won an MIT THINK Award (Technology for Humanity guided by Innovation, Networking, and Knowledge), which recognizes students whose science projects benefit their communities.[2]

Jack has been openly gay since he was 13,[19] and discussed that in interviews with The New Civil Rights Movement,[20] the London Evening Standard,[21] and Washington's MetroWeekly,[19] among others. When asked to be interviewed about his sexual orientation, Jack responded, "That sounds awesome! I’m openly gay and one of my biggest hopes is that I can help inspire other LGBT youth to get involved in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics]. I didn't have many [gay] role models [in science] besides Alan Turing."[20]

He also likes white-water kayaking (and is a member of the National Junior Wildwater Team), folds origami, and enjoys watching Glee and Bones. He is a Life Scout.[22] He notes: "I suppose I'd want [people] to know I'm not a complete nerd. I actually get out and stuff. I go kayaking. I'm not the creepy guy that wears big glasses and hides out in the corner."[19]


Andraka was the 2012 recipient of Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award in the Youth Achievement category.


  1. ^ a b c "Innovative Cancer Test Garners Gordon E. Moore Award". Intel. 
  2. ^ a b c d Burris, Joe (May 24, 2012). "North County student wins Intel Science Fair's top prize". Baltimore Sun. 
  3. ^ Damien Gayle (January 29, 2013). "Did this 15-year-old just change the course of medicine? Schoolboy invents early test for pancreatic cancer that killed Steve Jobs". Daily Mail. Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  4. ^ Dr. Richard Besser (June 21, 2012). "Boy Invents Cancer Test". ABC News. 
  5. ^ a b WSJ interview "Intel Science Winner Develops Cancer Tech". Wall Street Journal Live. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Andraka, Jack. "A Novel Paper Sensor for the Detection of Pancreatic Cancer". ME028 (Andraka). Society for Science & the Public. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  7. ^ "US teenager Jack Andraka develops $5 test to detect pancreatic cancer". news.com.au. AFP. 2013-02-28. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  8. ^ "Jack Andraka's Recipe to Make a Difference in the World: YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, a Laboratory, and an Amazing Mentor". American Society for Clinical Pathology. 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  9. ^ a b "US teen invents advanced cancer test using Google". BBC. August 20, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Tucker, Abigail. "Jack Andraka, the Teen Prodigy of Pancreatic Cancer". Smithsonian magazine. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ Scholler, N; Fu, N; Yang, Y; Ye, Z; Goodman, G. E.; Hellström, K. E.; Hellström, I (1999). "Soluble member(s) of the mesothelin/megakaryocyte potentiating factor family are detectable in sera from patients with ovarian carcinoma". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 96 (20): 11531–6. doi:10.1073/pnas.96.20.11531. PMC 18068. PMID 10500211.  edit
  12. ^ a b Herper, Matthew (January 8, 2014). "Why Biotech Whiz Kid Jack Andraka Is Not On The Forbes 30 Under 30 List". Forbes. 
  13. ^ Baum, Stephanie (2013-10-31). "Jack Andraka talks innovation, open access & life as a teen scientist on Colbert Report". Medcitynews.com. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  14. ^ Argani, P; Iacobuzio-Donahue, C; Ryu, B; Rosty, C; Goggins, M; Wilentz, RE; Murugesan, SR; Leach, SD; Jaffee, E; Yeo, CJ; Cameron, JL; Kern, SE; Hruban, RH (Dec 2001). "Mesothelin is overexpressed in the vast majority of ductal adenocarcinomas of the pancreas: identification of a new pancreatic cancer marker by serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE).". Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research 7 (12): 3862–8. PMID 11751476. 
  15. ^ Based on this TEDx conference by Jack Andraka.
  16. ^ Serum mesothelin and megakaryocyte potentiating factor in pancreatic and biliary cancers. E Sharon, J Zhang, K Hollevoet, S M Steinberg, I Pastan, M Onda, J Gaedcke, B M Ghadimi, T Ried, R Hassan. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2012 April;50(4):721-5. doi: 10.1515/CCLM.2011.816. [1], PMID 22149739
  17. ^ Joe Burris (May 24, 2012). "North County Student Wins Intel Prize". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  18. ^ http://www.polishamericancenter.org/PANews/August12/page01.pdf
  19. ^ a b c Riley, John (August 29, 2013). "Maryland's Gay Wunderkind". MetroWeekly, Washington, D.C.'s Gay & Lesbian News Magazine. 
  20. ^ a b Stuart, Wilber. "Standing on the Right Side of History: 16 Year Old Jack Andraka Is ‘The Edison Of Our Times’". New civil rights movement. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  21. ^ Edwardes, Charlotte (14 June 2013). "He's 16, still in braces and by the way he's invented a test for cancer". London Evening Standard. 
  22. ^ Riley, John (August 29, 2013). "Wait, Did This 15-Year-Old From Maryland Just Change Cancer Treatment?". Forbes. 

External links[edit]