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Jack Andraka

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Jack Andraka
Jack Andraka 2013.jpg
Andraka in 2013
Jack Thomas Andraka

(1997-01-08) January 8, 1997 (age 24)
Scientific career
FieldsCancer research, medical research, invention

Jack Thomas Andraka (born January 8, 1997) is an American scientist, inventor, and cancer researcher. As a high school student, he won the grand prize at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a method to possibly detect the early stages of pancreatic and other cancers. His work has been questioned by some scientists and writers because it has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal; multiple experts who reviewed the paper identified potentially serious flaws in the work, and Andraka himself described it as "just a high school science fair project."[1][2] As of 2018 he was enrolled at Stanford University as a junior majoring in anthropology and in electrical engineering.[3]

Pancreatic cancer sensor[edit]

Andraka talks about his work

Andraka's winning project consisted of a sensor, similar to diabetic test strips, for early-stage pancreatic cancer screening. The sensor, consisting of filter paper coated with single-walled carbon nanotubes and antibodies against human mesothelin, was said to measure the level of mesothelin to test for the presence of cancer in a patient.[4]

The project claimed that tests on human blood serum showed a dose-dependent response, and that his method was 168 times faster, 126667 times as expensive, and 400 times more sensitive than ELISA, 25% to 50% more accurate than the CA19-9 test,[5] and over 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of mesothelin.[6] However, several years of trials would be needed to determine whether the new device would be sensitive and specific enough as a screening test for pancreatic cancer.[1]

Andraka in an interview with Francis Collins on open access.

Andraka has spoken about the inspiration for his work—including the death of a family friend—in forums including TEDx Nijmegen in 2013.[7][8][9][10] He conducted his work under the supervision of Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.[4]

Andraka has applied for a provisional patent for his method of sensing pancreatic cancer and as of 2012 was communicating with companies about developing an over-the-counter test.[11][12]

In October 2013, Andraka appeared as a guest on The Colbert Report to talk about his work.[13]


A 2011 article published by Sharon et al. 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 were not statistically different from serum levels in pancreatic cancer patients.[14] Dr. Ira Pastan, who discovered mesothelin, said that Andraka's method "makes no scientific sense. I don't know anybody in the scientific community who believes his findings."[15] George M. Church, professor of genetics at Harvard University, also raised concerns about the cost, speed, and sensitivity claims.[1] The novelty of Andraka's work has also been questioned. In 2005, seven years before Andraka won the Intel ISEF, a group of researchers at Jefferson Medical College and the University of Delaware reported a carbon-nanotube based sensor for use in breast cancer diagnostics that uses a methodology nearly identical to Andraka's purportedly novel methodology.[16] In addition, a carbon-nanotube based sensor similar to Andraka's was reported in 2009 by Wang et al., a group of researchers at Jiangnan University and University of Michigan,[17] and a carbon-nanotube based sensor for applications in cancer diagnosis was reported in a 2008 paper by Shao et al. that used a methodology similar to Andraka's.[18]

In 2012, Andraka filed a "World Patent" under the Patent Cooperation Treaty,[11] which resulted in a preliminary search to determine patentability.[19] The examination found "a lack of inventive step" [20] and prior art in US Patents 7824925 and 8110369. No subsequent patent has been filed in any of the patent offices under the PCT and a "Code 122" (European Patent not filed) was issued on June 3, 2015.[11]

While being an advocate for open access, he was criticized for not publishing his discovery openly for anyone to use and build upon, and then trying to file a patent for it.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Andraka at Capital Pride in 2014

Jack Andraka was born in Crownsville, Maryland and is of Polish ancestry.[21] Andraka enrolled as a freshman at Stanford University for the 2015–2016 academic year.[22]

Andraka has been openly gay since he was 13.[23][24][25] When asked to be interviewed about his sexual orientation, Andraka 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. I didn't have many role models [who are gay scientists] besides Alan Turing."[24]


Andraka's father, Steve, is a civil engineer and his mother, Jane, is a Certified Anesthesiology Assistant.[26] Andraka'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.[9]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Herper, Matthew (January 8, 2014). "Why Biotech Whiz Kid Jack Andraka Is Not On The Forbes 30 Under 30 List". Forbes Media LLC. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  2. ^ "Andraka[Author}". Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  3. ^ Sullivan, Kathleen J. (April 13, 2018). "Stanford junior wins 2018 Truman Scholarship for graduate studies". Stanford University: News. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Tucker, Abigail. "Jack Andraka, the Teen Prodigy of Pancreatic Cancer". Smithsonian magazine. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  5. ^ Andraka, Jack. "A Novel Paper Sensor for the Detection of Pancreatic Cancer". ME028 (Andraka). Society for Science & the Public. Archived from the original on August 30, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Innovative Cancer Test Garners Gordon E. Moore Award". Intel.
  7. ^ TEDx Talks (April 8, 2013). Bring on the medical revolution : Jack Andraka at TEDxNijmegen 2013. YouTube. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  8. ^ "Intel Science Winner Develops Cancer Tech". Wall Street Journal Live. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  9. ^ a b c Burris, Joe (May 24, 2012). "North County student wins Intel Science Fair's top prize". Baltimore Sun.
  10. ^ Dr. Richard Besser (June 21, 2012). "Boy Invents Cancer Test". ABC News.
  11. ^ a b c "Sensors for detection of mesothelin WO 2013172866 A3".
  12. ^ a b "US teen invents advanced cancer test using Google". BBC. August 20, 2012.
  13. ^ Colbert, Stephen (October 30, 2013). "Jack Andraka". The Colbert Report. Season 10. Episode 15. Comedy Central. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  14. ^ Sharon, Elad; Zhang, Jingli; Hollevoet, Kevin; Steinberg, Seth M.; Pastan, Ira; Onda, Masanori; Gaedcke, Jochen; Ghadimi, B. Michael; Ried, Thomas (April 1, 2012). "Serum mesothelin and megakaryocyte potentiating factor in pancreatic and biliary cancers". Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. 50 (4): 721–725. doi:10.1515/CCLM.2011.816. ISSN 1437-4331. PMC 6309905. PMID 22149739.
  15. ^ Bryant, Nick (May 28, 2015). "The prodigy invention". The Sydney Morning Herald. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  16. ^ "Student Science". Archived from the original on June 10, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  17. ^ Wang, Libing; Chen, Wei; Xu, Dinghua; Shim, Bong Sup; Zhu, Yingyue; Sun, Fengxia; Liu, Liqiang; Peng, Chifang; Jin, Zhengyu (December 1, 2009). "Simple, rapid, sensitive, and versatile SWNT-paper sensor for environmental toxin detection competitive with ELISA". Nano Letters. 9 (12): 4147–4152. Bibcode:2009NanoL...9.4147W. doi:10.1021/nl902368r. ISSN 1530-6992. PMC 2793542. PMID 19928776.
  18. ^ Shao, Ning; Wickstrom, Eric; Panchapakesan, Balaji (November 19, 2008). "Nanotube-antibody biosensor arrays for the detection of circulating breast cancer cells". Nanotechnology. 19 (46): 465101. Bibcode:2008Nanot..19T5101S. doi:10.1088/0957-4484/19/46/465101. ISSN 0957-4484. PMID 21836232.
  19. ^ "US2012068589 SENSORS FOR DETECTION OF MESOTHELIN". Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  20. ^ "WO2013172866.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Stevenson, Seth (November 3, 2015). "Jack Andraka's Parents on Raising a Science Whiz Kid". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  23. ^ Riley, John (August 29, 2013). "Maryland's Gay Wunderkind". MetroWeekly, Washington, D.C.'s Gay & Lesbian News Magazine.
  24. ^ a b Stuart, Wilber. "Standing on the Right Side of History: 16 Year Old Jack Andraka Is 'The Edison Of Our Times'". The New Civil Rights Movement (online news site). Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  25. ^ Edwardes, Charlotte (June 14, 2013). "He's 16, still in braces and by the way he's invented a test for cancer". London Evening Standard.
  26. ^ Joe Burris (May 24, 2012). "North County Student Wins Intel Prize". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  27. ^ "42ND JEFFERSON AWARDS CELEBRATE THE IMPACT OF PUBLIC SERVICE - Volunteering". Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  28. ^ "2015 Coca-Cola Scholars".
  29. ^ "2012 American Ingenuity Award Winners". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian.

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