04/03/2014 at 02:00 PM EDT
Jack Andraka, 17, created a simple test to detect pancreatic cancer when he was only 15.
Motivated by the death of a close family friend, the Crownsville, Md., high school junior wanted to design a way to detect the disease in its early stages. He applied to 200 labs and was rejected by 199 of them. But working at a Johns Hopkins University lab, he came up with a test that costs three cents and gives results in just five minutes.
"It's a paper sensor coated in a carbon substance that attracts a protein in the bloodstream that is indicative of the cancer," he explains, noting it also may help detect ovarian and lung cancers.
More trials are needed, but Jack is in talks with companies to develop his test. Already he's won the top prize at Intel's 2012 Science and Engineering Fair.
But at home, says mom Jane, "Jack still has to do his chores and homework and drives us crazy because he always has his earbuds in."