Teen's Science Fair Project Could Help Docs Improve Breast Cancer Treatments
It took a message from a stranger in Bosnia for Abu Qader to see his high school project as a potential business.
The now 17-year-old won a computer science fair at Chicago's Lane Tech College Prep in 2015 for an algorithm that improved on the results of conventional mammography analysis, which detects breast cancer in only 84% of women with the disease, according to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation. After a power weekend of coding, he had developed a program that boosted results to 88%.
“It was hard, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be,” Qader, who was born in Afghanistan, told Crain's Chicago Business.
But then he set the program aside to concentrate on other hobbies: He plays varsity tennis, captains the school robotics team and is a power user of social media question-and-answer site Quora.
It was Quora that kick-started Qader's business career. Vedad Mesanovic, a Sarajevo entrepreneur, contacted Qader because the teen was one of Quora's most popular users regarding artificial intelligence. Qader described his mammography program during a Skype chat, and the two co-founded GliaLab, a company aimed at bringing Qader's tech to market.
As Qader has refined his algorithm—it's now in public beta testing—and says he has improved its accuracy rate to about 94%. That's been enough to attract the attention of prospective investors.
Qader loves the idea of turning his product into a business and is seeking $600,000 in venture capital. But he's equally committed to enjoying his senior year at Lane Tech and then studying computer science in college. Asked if he would consider quitting the tennis team if an investor wanted him to devote more time to the business, he pauses and sighs before assenting.
“A few months ago, I would have said I want to study computer science and then get a job at a great firm, and that's it. Now I see that the (entrepreneurial) leap is not that big of a leap,” he said.
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