'Boy Wonder' Jack Andraka coming to CMU to discuss cancer screening


It is difficult for anyone to say they found a way to detect the early stages of cancer at the age of 15 – anyone except for Jack Andraka.

The Central Michigan University Speaker Series is hosting a presentation by “Boy Wonder” Andraka at 7 p.m. March 31, featuring his accomplishments in cancer screening at Plachta Auditorium.

Most high school students at the age of 15 are worried about friends, dances, getting acne and drama.

Not Andraka.

Hardly old enough to drive, Andraka created a cancer-screening method that has been applauded by expert scientists and cancer researchers around the globe.

“Jack is a leader we are bringing to campus that is on his way up to help our society transform,” said Eric Buschlen, assistant professor in Educational Leadership. “He is a great role model.”

After the loss of a close family member battling pancreatic cancer, Andraka set out to invent a cheap, rapid test to screen the early stages of cancer. He found the lack of quick and inexpensive cancer detection contributed to the poor survival rates among patients.

"The more I learn about this young man, the more I believe he is the next big thing, " Buschlen said. "With the things he has done at his young age, he has the ability to make world-changing innovations." 

Andraka created an inexpensive and sensitive dipstick-like sensor for early detection of pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers. His screening tests take less than five minutes and cost only pennies – a huge change in the way cancer is detected and researched.

His diagnostic method is more than 90 percent accurate in detecting pancreatic cancer’s biomarker protein. Andraka was given the Gordon E. Moore Award – a $75,000 prize for completing the most innovative project that could have an impact on the world – as well as the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award, an honor given by the Smithsonian Institution, after competing with 1,500 young scientists across 70 countries.

“He touches so many different academic areas,” Buschlen said. “Biology, entrepreneurship and education areas could learn a lot from him.”

Being First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest at the State of the Union and named Champion of Change by President Barack Obama are only a couple of Andraka’s greatest accomplishments. He and his cancer-detecting method have won handfuls of awards, competitions and recognition across the globe.

Aside from cancer research, Andraka is an expert whitewater rafter of the National Junior Wildwater Kayak team, a Life Scout, and a mathematician who has won many awards in national and international math competitions.


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