Heman Bekele, 3M, young scientist, soap, melanoma

Virginia 14-Year-Old Named ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ For Cancer-Fighting Soap Invention

Heman Bekele, 14, was named America’s Top Young Scientist for his cancer-fighting soap invention, according to a press release from 3M.

The ninth grader from Annandale, Virginia, received the 3M and Discovery Education award for invebnting a compound-based bar of soap called M.T.S. to treat melanoma, a form of skin cancer, that costs about 50 cents to make.

In his submission video posted on YouTube, Bekele provided an educational breakdown of the need for the soap and how it’s made: a combination of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and tretinoin.

“They’re all keratolytic agents that slowly reactivate dendritic cells,” the young scientist explained.

Over the next five years, the young scientist hopes to create a non-profit organization to distribute the soap to needy communities.

“I have always been interested in biology and technology, and this challenge gave me the perfect platform to showcase my ideas,” Bekele said on his award submission form, according to USA Today. “I believe that young minds can make a positive impact on the world.”

The competition was created for students between the fifth and eighth grades to develop innovative ideas that can change the world. Held at 3M’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 9 and 10, the winner received a $25,000 cash prize.

The manufacturing company posted a video of the touching moment Bekele won the award on Instagram with the caption, “We’re very proud of Heman and all the finalists who will continue to bring science to life through curiosity and passion for innovation!”


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“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, 3M’s executive vice president, chief technology officer and environmental responsibility. “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!”

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