3M has named a 14-year-old from Virginia “America’s Top Young Scientist” after he developed a bar of soap designed to treat skin cancer.

Heman Bekele, a 9th grader at W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Va., earned the top prize in the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a contest for middle school science students. He won a $25,000 cash prize.

This year, the competition challenged middle school students to create an innovative idea to change the world.

“I have always been interested in biology and technology, and this challenge gave me the perfect platform to showcase my ideas,” Bekele said.

“I believe that young minds can make a positive impact on the world,” Heman said in his submission for the award.

Bekele created a compound-based skin cancer treatment soap (SCTS) that treats melanoma. He was inspired to create the soap after seeing people from his native land of Ethiopia suffer from skin cancer stemming from working outside in the sun.

Photographer: Pixabay

According to ABC News, it costs only $8.50 to create 20 bars of Bekele’s soap.

The soap delivers cancer-fighting drugs via lipid nanoparticles, activating the body’s immune cells to fight skin cancer.

“In terms of how it feels, it does feel a little stickier because it has this lipid-based nanoparticle, and the whole point is that even once you wash off the soaps, the medicinal parts will stay on your skin,” Bekele told NPR.

Bekele says he will work on the soap for the next five years and launch a nonprofit organization that could potentially distribute the soap to needy communities.

“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, 3M 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.”

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