Jack Andraka was just a fifteen year old Maryland high school sophomore when he invented an inexpensive early detection test for pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers. After a close family friend died of pancreatic cancer, Andraka (then a ninth grader) became interested in finding a better early-detection diagnostic test. He learned that the lack of a rapid, low-cost early screening method contributed to the poor survival rate among individuals with pancreatic cancer. After thinking further about the problem, he came up with a plan and a budget to put his ideas in motion.
Andraka's inspiring and compelling memoir, Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator Is Changing the World (HarperCollins), delves into the challenges and triumphs he faced on the road to his revolutionary discovery. At the age of fifteen he garnered international attention for his breakthrough: a four cent strip of paper capable of detecting pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers 400 times more effectively than the previous standard. He aims to inspire young people, who he argues are the most innovative. The memoir encourages readers to fight for the right to be taken seriously, pursue their own dreams, and that we can each change the world if we only have the courage to try.
Still a teenager, Andraka’s groundbreaking results have earned him international recognition, most notably a 2014 Jefferson Award, the nation’s most prestigious public service award, 1st place winner in the 2014 Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, a 2014 National Geographic Explorer grant, the 2012 Intel ISEF Gordon Moore Award, the 2012 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Youth Award, Advocate Magazine’s 40 under 40 award, and he’s also the 2014 State of Maryland winner of the Stockholm Water Prize.
In addition, Andraka was First Lady Michelle Obama’s personal guest at the 2013 State of the Union Address. He speaks to audiences of youths and adults all across the globe about his personal story, research, and his ideas for STEM education reform. He has been featured in several documentaries including Morgan Spurlock’s Sundance Film Festival entry, “You Don’t Know Jack,” Linda Peters’ award winning film, “Just Jack,” Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about cancer, as well as 60 Minutes, The Colbert Report, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, CNN, BBC, Fox, Rede Record de Televisão, and radio, newspaper, and magazine articles around the world.
Andraka speaks at a wide variety of locations including universities, schools, technology organizations and corporations, hospitals and the education sector. His audiences range from youth—children and teens through to adults in the science and technology fields.
Andraka now lives in Baltimore, Maryland. He is a member of the National Junior Wildwater Kayak team, a Life Scout and has won numerous awards in national and international math competitions.
Praise for Jack Andraka:
"This kid is the Edison of our times. There are going to be a lot of light bulbs coming from him"
-- Dr. Anirban Maitra, Johns Hopkins University, The Baltimore Sun
"He did an eight-minute presentation on the research he’d done and what he discovered,” Spurlock says, “and after I watched that I was like, ‘This guy is fantastic. I need to make a film about him.’”
-- Morgan Spurlock, Documentary Filmmaker
"[N]ot only interesting, but beautifully honest…Jack’s life unfurls with the…realities of growing up that, at times, conflict with identity and awareness, self- esteem, and self-worth [and] are openly shared with the reader. Andraka is certainly an inspiration beyond his generation."
-- USA Today
"Jack won over the hearts and minds of our middle school students by connecting with them on a deep personal level by sharing your story and telling your truth. Jack inspired them to engage in self-love, follow their curiosity, lean on their optimism and develop the grit needed to overcome 4,000 failures and 199 rejections.Furthermore, Jack has given them the hope to overcome bullying and teasing by staying focused on helping others."
-- Antoinette Quarshie, Community Engagement Team, Assistant Director of Global Studies, Riverdale Country School
"Although it has been a week since Jack visited CMU, I am still “hyper” and absorbing his presence at CMU...I’d like to use our chair, Dr. Eric Buschlen’s phrase to describe his visit, 'you were not what I expected and everything I wanted'...the way he talked about what he did and is doing was so inspiring, positive, and truthful. This is what I, all other members of the committee, or all students and faculty who saw him liked about him. As the committee members commented in the meeting on last Wednesday, he was grounded and solid. We like him not just because what he does but also who he is!"
--Rui Wang, Social Science Librarian/Associate Professor Central Michigan University
"Jack's presentation to the Best in Nation App Challenge winning teams, was a great addition to the evening's agenda. It was obvious by the complete attention the teens in the audience gave Jack during his talk and their excitement about meeting him in person and having their picture taken later with this new celebrity, that his experiences amazed and delighted them. He told his story with humor and detail that opened the audience's eyes to what can be achieved when someone so young believes anything is possible. We would be happy to invite Jack to present again in the future as his message helps other bright teenagers see the benefits of pursuing STEM interests and consider careers in STEM-related fields."
--Phil Puthumana, Program Manager, Global Corporate Citizenship, Verizon
"It was our absolute pleasure having Jack and his speech went over incredibly well. He's an inspiration to us all, and a living testament that anyone can make a long-lasting positive impact."
--Robb Gilbert, Klick Health, Toronto
“Now that I have interviewed Jack for a magazine article, introduced him to over 3,000 people at a conference, read his book, and followed his work over the past year, I feel that I know Jack. What a remarkable, giving, and delightful young man who is dedicated to ‘paying it forward’ in life.”
--Dane Peters, Vice President of the American Montessori Society
"Jack did a fantastic job at the MEDA Annual Conference...He was prompt, engaged, poised, and, of course, knowledgeable about his subject. He handled the Q&A session with ease. I was very impressed, as were our attendees. We highly recommend Jack as a speaker for other organizations. As a fellow Marylander, I am very proud of him and the work he is doing."
--Pamela J. Ruff, Executive Director, Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA)