An Article By The Good News Network...
What if washing your hands to prevent getting a simple flu virus was all that was needed to prevent skin cancer? Bold as that sounds, it wasn’t an Anderson Center laureate who came up with the idea, but a 14-year-old.
Heman Bekele, a 9th grader at W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Virginia, was awarded the $25,000 grand prize as the winner of the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge, with a melanoma treatment in the form of a bar of soap.
As the winner of the nation’s premier middle school science contest, now in its 16th year, Bekele has been accorded the prestigious title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”
He explains that his work was spurred on by discovering the recovery rate of melanoma in the US compared to sub-Saharan Africa (99% to 20%). By combining simple compounds in the soap that kept costs low he also was able to create a product that stimulates the activity of dendritic cells which act as protectors of skin cells.
“The need for scientists and innovators to develop solutions for the world’s biggest challenges has never been greater. This year’s Young Scientist Challenge finalists have demonstrated the skills required to reimagine what’s possible—intelligence, curiosity, collaboration, and resilience,” said John Banovetz, executive vice president and chief technology officer of 3M.
“The magnitude and complexity of the issues these young minds are working to solve is inspiring. Congratulations to this year’s finalists—we can’t wait to see what you do next!”
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with an average annual treatment cost of $8.1 billion. Inspired by this costly and widespread health issue, Heman developed an affordable soap solution that could positively impact skin cancer outcomes.
Over the next five years, he hopes to refine this novel innovation and create a nonprofit organization that will distribute this low-cost solution to communities in need.