Andraka came up with the idea last year after reading an article on carbon nanotubes in a journal and realized that nanotubes could be used to suspend a protein which if coated onto strips of filtered paper would create a cheap and accurate test for pancreatic cancer.
Andraka became interested in pancreatic cancer after a family member and his personal hero, Steve Jobs, both died from it.
In order to develop his idea further Andraka wrote to 200 professors to ask for their help. Only one was willing – Dr Anirban Maitra at the Sol Goldman Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Andraka had to officially be a ‘volunteer’ on the project to avoid the university running foul of child labor laws.
And his discovery may lead to improved testing for a range of other illnesses.