Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Supersensitive early detection pancreatic cancer test by 15-year-old outdoes efforts by billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies; NIH rejected his proposal

Jack Andraka, a 15-year-old Maryland student, developed a test using a single-wall carbon nanotube which detects pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer in their early stages when up to a 50% survival rate is possible.
     His test costs three cents and takes five minutes. It is 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive and 400 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic standard.
     He sent his proposal to over 200 professors at the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins and got 197 rejection emails and one acceptance — from  Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
     Here's video of Andraka accepting the top prize at 2012's ISEF (the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair)

Andraka on how Internet research fueled his invention:
The Internet is invaluable for research because you don't have a college degree in biology or chemistry, you don't really have any of those textbooks. So the Internet offers up that information. So without that, such scientific advances by young people  and getting interested in science would be nearly impossible.

This story brings up another issue: the predatory pricing of publishers of academic journals. Had the information Andraka initially needed been locked up behind a confiscatory paywall, he wouldn't have been able to succeed.
It now appears that the major universities that generate so much of the world’s research (only to buy it back from publishers at huge mark-ups) could be getting ready to fight back.  Harvard University is publicly urging its faculty members to avoid publishing in journals that require paid access, and to publish instead in open access journals.  Open access literature can be defined as works that are digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
A revolt is forming against these companies.

Here's video of another ISEF winner:

(H/T JoeMyGod, Beeblemeyer)

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