Associate Director and Head of Operations, Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab, MIT
I had the privilege of hearing Jack Andraka speak at the recent Pediatric Innovation Summit. I’d heard the basics of his story before: He’d had a relative die of pancreatic cancer, and at the age of 14 or 15, he decided there ought to be a better test to detect the disease. In the span of a year or two, he managed to develop an approach to detecting early stage pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer that cost pennies to do and was very accurate.
I hadn’t heard how important open resources, including Wikipedia and PubMed, were to his effort. In his talk, he recounted his story, but at the end, he spent a full ten minutes on a moving plea for open access to scientific research and data. Here is an interview with Jack by Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, where he shares many of the same sentiments.
As access to storage, computing power and sophisticated software increase, it’s increasingly our own self-imposed limits to knowledge that are bottlenecking extraordinary breakthroughs like Jack’s. And as Jack’s work demonstrates, the cost of this can sometimes be measured in human lives.