Jack Andraka

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Jack Andraka

Jack Andraka — 15-Yr-Old Jack Andraka Invents Cancer Test 10X More Sensitive & 26,000X Cheaper than Current Tests

Jack Andraka
Jack Thomas Andraka

Jack Andraka enjoys mountain biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and science. According to his Facebook page, he’s a fan of Beavis and Butthead, Family Guy and The Simpsons. Oh yeah—when Jack was 15-years-old he also created a new diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer. Jack Andraka’s test is 28 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests. And, in case that’s not impressive enough, the test also works for ovarian and lung cancer.

His diagnostic test earned him first prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest pre-college science research competition. (The photo is from the competition.)

I love Jack’s modesty. Interviewed before the fair, he said, “I’m incredibly excited. It’s like the Olympics of science fairs. It’s just amazing to be here—even if I don’t get a prize.” Well, Jack Andraka did win, receiving about $100,000 in prize money ($75,000 from the grand prize and over $25,000 from other smaller prizes).  The high schooler said he will put the money toward college tuition.

It was after a close family friend died of pancreatic cancer that Jack Andraka became interested in finding a better early-detection diagnostic test. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is usually detected too late to save the patient.

Jack said the solution came to him during his high school biology class. He was secretly reading an article about nanotubes while the teacher was talking about antibodies. Jack said the two ideas came together in his head, and he thought he could combine what the teacher was saying with what he knew about nanotubes to create an early detection test for Pancreatic cancer.

Jack Andraka used what he found through Google searches and free online science journals to develop a plan and a budget. Jack contacted about 200 people including researches at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health with a proposal to work in their labs. He got 199 rejections before he finally got an acceptance from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Jack worked after school every day, on weekends and over holidays at Maitra’s lab 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.” Certainly, it was in no small part because Anirban Maitra gave him a chance. Not to mention that Jack had an idea and went out and gave it a try.

Think about Jack Andraka the next time you hear that something can’t be done or someone asks you to help out with his project. Or, if you receive numerous rejections (close to 200 in Jack Andraka’s case) or you’re simply hesitating to give one of your ideas a shot. Also, keep in mind that 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.

The results of Jack Andraka’s diagnostic test were published on the Society for Science and the Public web site, and Jack has patented his discovery.

If you’re interested in hearing Jack Andraka talk about his pancreatic cancer diagnostic test breakthrough, below is Jack Andraka’s 2012 TED talk.

You can also read about other failures and famous failures that will inspire you to persevere.

Jack Andraka Ted Talk

This video is from an interview with Jack Andraka at the science fair.

Jack Thomas Andraka


If you enjoyed this article about Jack Andraka, you’ll also like: Don’t be Afraid to Fail about how the most successful people fail…a lot. Let this post inspire you to join them.

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  • Leslie

    Clinical trials still? Update?

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/ Brad Aronson

      Hi Leslie,

      Here’s what Jack said in a July 2015 article:

      “Right now it’s in pre-clinical trials, we tested it on a lot of different patients and and we’re in talks with a bunch of different biotech companies, so just trying to get through the process. It’ll probably be on the market in the next five to 10 years, hopefully.”

      Here is the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/07/09/jack-andraka-cancer-nanobots-treatment_n_7746760.html


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  • http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002452955263 Pamela Renz

    What happened to Jack’s cancer test after it was patented? Did big pharma kill it?

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/ Brad Aronson

      Hi Pamela, The test is going through the appropriate clinical trials and FDA approvals. Then it will be available on the market.

      • Andres Castillo

        What are “appropriate” clinical trials? The same ones that allow 100% of all FDA recalled drugs/tests to have first been approved by… wait for it… wait… THE FDA? Jack’s test sounds amazing. If sound, unfortunately you can bet it’ll no longer be 3 cents, but sure big pharma will try to k!ll it.

        • http://www.bradaronson.com/ Brad Aronson

          Hi Andres, I meant the required clinical trials. I do wish it was available now, and I hope it is affordable when it is available.

  • http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002452955263 Pamela Renz

    Exactly what has happened to Jack’s “test” since he patented it? Is it in use now? Or has big pharma killed it?

  • http://www.NetworkRealty.net Edward Lord

    Congratulation “Jack Andraka”…!

    You are truly an inspiration as well as a gifted young man, who should pursue your education in a professional mentoring environment, such as attending the “Davidson Academy” at The University of Nevada, Reno Campus, for extraordinarily gifted students. I am certain that you would qualify for a full ride scholarship. SEE: http://www.davidsonacademy.unr.edu/

    Good Luck to you in pursuing your education and dreams…! EDL.

  • Felicity Coddington

    Wow, Kid! Excellent and compassionate finding. Good for you!

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  • maniol

    cause a great cancer test wouldn’t generate as much profit…

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  • jeff

    Thats great progress. So it detects pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers. Is it possible for this method to detect Leukemia? Especially in children and teens?
    My son became sick with a mysterious illness and had an entire panel drawn and tested. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, but his blood work didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary.
    Six months later he was diagnosed with B-ALL Leukemia. Two weeks after receiving chemo therapy he was additionally diagnosed with Valley Fever in his lungs. Less than four months later he passed just before his sixteenth birthday. Alexander passed on 8/12/2012 after diagnosed on 4/25/2012.
    His cousin passed with the same type of leukemia 11 before and passed after battling it nearly 6 years. She was diagnosed at 15 and passed at 21.
    Leukemia seems to be the lease talked about of all the cancers, and yet the chances of survival especially in adolescents are less than 40 % compared to young children before age 12 with an 80% survival rate.
    We were told that advances in the treatment for leukemia was so much greater since Alex’s cousin 11 years before, and yet his nearly four months of treatment was so horrendous and painful I still wonder to this day of where was this so called advancement in treating leukemia?
    It is my belief that addressing the cancers of the blood and endocrine systems are the core foundation for winning the war on all cancers. Something must be done to find a cure for Leukemia!

    • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brad-Aronson-Author-Page/172730906176262 Brad Aronson

      Hi Jeff, At this point Jack’s invention doesn’t. But I look forward to more innovations from many inventors based on Jack’s diagnostic test. Perhaps Leukemia will be one of them. Brad

  • http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000285398229 Barbara Bast

    God’ has used you Jack. My husband went to a store for groceries, went over for a sample of pizza, the man said, sir, did you hear about the young man who found help for pancreases cancer? My husband & son took the pizza sample, after buying 2, left came home. Asked me how he knew about this? I said what did you tell him? nothing. & of course I said,.( You can entertain Angles unaware), We looked up a young man, & Bless him, here he is. “GOD’, Bless all Cancer patients & All illnesses. In Jesus’ Name, Amen: xxxxo Barb

    • Brad Aronson

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Brad Aronson

      Indeed. When I was 15, I think I was playing video games and Dungeons and Dragons.

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  • Donald E. Brady

    There must be something wrong with the fable of a million monkeys with a million typewriters coming up with the Hamlet play This is awe inspiring. Not proof of a God perhaps but proof of the wonder of it all.

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  • http://www.lydiafucsko.com Lydia Fucsko

    Congratulations Jack!

  • Otto Ebert

    Frusterating to see another break through trumped by profit. effectiveness is on the bottom of the algorithm.

  • http://none eek the cat

    this kid is amazing, this needs to go viral so everyone knows what he did, not that im suggesting that they will try to shut him down, but if people know the truth about what things cost and what things should cost
    share this! share this now

  • Nathan

    this is just another example of drug companies and researchers doing things just for the money. This young man did this because it meant something to him not for money and not for the prestige of it. Congrats to him.

    • Kevin Kent

      And yet the invention was patented by Jack, which means he stands to profit handsomely. And why not?

  • Truong Son Trong Nguyen

    Jack, you are a prodigy in what you are doing!. You have also set a tremendously effective and greatly important example for young people, especially for those who are interested in science. I can feel and see the enthusiasm and confidence in what you are working on. With continued efforts, I have no doubt that you will be an immense contributor to our society,
    Congratulations & best wishes!

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      I agree. Thanks for the comment.

  • Bryan Elliott

    “Not to mention that Jack had an idea and went out and gave it a try.”

    Way to bury the lead: this is the most important part of why he was able to beat out big companies. Big companies are risk averse, preferring low-risk incremental innovation to high-risk revolutionary innovation.

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      You’re right. If you don’t give an idea a try, you’ll never have a chance to see it succeed. Thanks for the comment.

  • SY

    He needs to write this up with his mentor and submit it to a peer-reviewed biomedical journal.

  • Luzmila Cotrado Velarde

    Congratulation Jack, I read one article about you in Smithsonian magazine, three months ago, it’s interesting. And allowme to say I am learning English, and I am peruvian and I am 59.
    I woul like to read about your more research.

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    • Ode

      As amazing and fascinating as this is, I truly hope the pharmaceuticals won’t shut this down so they can keep making money on people’s sicknesses… This is incredible and I hope he fights to get this out there ASAP otherwise get it out there so people can get involved and petition for this to become the next best thing…. You are a hero kid!!!

    • http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=1540237329 Robert Sprawls

      It’s not a cure, but I have little doubt this young man is going to do more in his lifetime than all the drug and medical research companies did for cancer in the last 100 years. Well done young man, well done.

  • Christina

    My husband was in line at Taco Bell, a man in the drive thru was QUITE rude, cussing, and so my husband went outside and told him he would pull him out of that car and pound him into the dirt, and the young man apologized to the employees, and other customers thanked him,…does that help?

  • https://www.facebook.com/WorldPizzaJudge Flavio

    Come to Australia.

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  • http://www.matthewinsardi.com Matthew Insardi

    Awesome!!! Can’t wait to see what he does next. Sets the bar high. Focus and dedication and it doesnt matter what your age you can accomplish anything

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      That’s right. Great ideas don’t care how old you are. Thanks for the comment.

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    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      Hi, Jack developed his test for pancreatic cancer when he was 15. Now he is 16. It is true! Brad

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson


  • http://twitter.com/idic5 idic5

    when was this blog post done ? please point me to the date. who what where when and why are all important.

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      Hi, I wrote this post end of May. However, I updated it since then with additional info. Brad

  • http://www.julieskelley.co.uk/_blog/Latest_News/post/Meet_a_now_happy_Holly/ selecting

    Excellent pieces. Keep writing such kind of
    information on your blog. Im really impressed by your site.

  • ApRol

    Gotta love those “Aha!” moments in Bio class. Very, very inspiring. Jacks are turning out to be great kids so far…

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      Gotta hope the name will rub off for sure. Thanks for the comment.

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  • Ignatz

    The pharmaceutical companies would have done it if they just got a bigger tax cut.

    This kid did and they didn’t because the profit motive KILLS innovation.

    Big Pharma cares about money, not medicine. This kid was focused on medicine.

  • Raj

    This test could have saved Steve Jobs if available 10 years ago! Great Job! You inspire others to follow you into science Jack.

  • Paula

    Thank you Jack…. Thank you…..

  • Renée de Cauvi

    God bless you, Jack Andraka , también al Dr. Anirban Maitra, por creer en tí y darte la oportunidad. Viva la juventud, sin ataduras. Mil gracias por tu trabajo.
    Que Dios, esté siempre contigo.

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      Gracias para su comentario. (Lo siento que mi Espanol no es muy buena.)

  • http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=10500796 Richard Fernandes


    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      I agree. Thanks.

  • http://www.FranchiseGator.com Farrah Kennedy

    This is so crucial… he hadn’t yet learned what everyone else in the industry “knew couldn’t be done”… After 9 years in the same business i find myself “stuck” in that “we’ve tried it all… there’s no silver bullet… it won’t work” yada yada. It’s great to read things like this to remind myself to keep a fresh perspective and also allow new folks to have their ideas and opinions and test them out without my “9 years experience in what can’t be done”!

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      Excellent comment. Thank you.

    • http://mebo-international.com Andrew G.

      That’s a great point, Farrah. If we always got caught up in that, imagine the things we wouldn’t have. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “expertise” of others and miss out on huge opportunities. Rongxiang Xu, the Chinese doctor who discovered the differentiation pathways for stem cells, was forced to resign because he defied that expertise. It can happen anywhere…

  • http://TEDxOrangeCoast Mojdeh Eskandari

    Talking about “Redefining Relevance” ! Jack is right on and BTW this is the theme of our upcoming TEDxOrangeCoast Conference

    • http://www.bradaronson.com/about/ Brad Aronson

      I wish I was out your way, and I’d attend the TEDx. Thanks for the post.

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