Hosting Stanford MedX is always one of the highlights of my year and a fun opportunity for me to improve on the skills I was building up during my fellowship. This year the Global Access Team was able to interview a record number of speakers during the three day conference, thanks to our expert producer Bita Ryan, camera and sound crew, and editor. Some of the videos can be found online on the Stanford MedX Youtube Channel. I will be posting a few of my favorite interviews on this blog over the next couple days but I wanted to start with a very very special individual I had the fortune of meeting.
Jack Andraka is a remarkable 16 year old, recipient of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore grand prize of the international Intel Science and Engineering Fair. He invented a quick, low cost test detecting early stage pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer that is 400x more sensitive than current diagnostic tests. Jack coated single walled carbon nanotubes with mesothelin antibodies, meaning molecules that bind to pancreatic cancer marker mesothelin. He then coated filter paper with these nanotubes, which made the papers into biosensors whose conductivity varied depending on the presence or absence of mesothelin. In one overly simplified sentence, measuring the electrical signals from these papers allows you to detect different types of cancer. This is a huge advancement, especially for pancreatic cancer which usually presents in a late stage.
What I found most impressive is Jack’s determination. He told me he reached out to 200 or so labs at Johns Hopkins, banging down the doors to try to find a mentor for his project. He got rejected by all but one, Dr. Anirban Maitra, who believed in him. Over the next year he lived a grad student life, working at the lab everyday after school and even sleeping there. He spent all his weekends there. And most of all, he found the whole experience exhilarating and fun. Hard work pays off – Jack’s work is patented and is in the works for clinical application. He is going to change lives around the world. It’s amazing what this high school student has accomplished so far, and I’m sure that we will continue to hear about him in the future!
For those interested, here is Jack’s keynote address on day 2 of MedX. I found his hostile relationship with his high school science teacher particularly amusing.
A CBS 60 minutes special on Jack
(and look, I happened to find a photo of him wearing a Stanford shirt! Perhaps he has a favorite college in mind? 😉