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Teenager Creates Skin Cancer Treatment Soap and Receives National Recognition as Top Scientist



Quick Smiles:

  • 14-year-old Heman Bekele wins $25,000 grand prize as America’s Top Young Scientist for inventing a soap to treat skin cancer.
  • Heman’s soap stimulates the activity of dendritic cells, protecting skin cells and potentially preventing skin cancer.
  • His affordable solution could positively impact skin cancer outcomes and be distributed to communities in need.

In a heartwarming display of brilliance and innovation, 14-year-old Heman Bekele has been crowned America’s Top Young Scientist for his groundbreaking invention.

Hailing from W. T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Virginia, this remarkable 9th grader has developed a soap that could potentially treat skin cancer. Yes, you read that right – a bar of soap with the power to fight this common and costly disease.

What inspired Heman to embark on such a remarkable journey? Well, it all started when he learned about the stark difference in melanoma recovery rates between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.

With recovery rates of 99% in the US compared to a mere 20% in sub-Saharan Africa, Heman was determined to find a solution that could bridge this gap and save lives.

Through his diligent research and experimentation, Heman discovered that by combining simple compounds in his soap, he could stimulate the activity of dendritic cells. These cells act as protectors of our skin cells, defending them against harmful substances and potential cancerous threats. By harnessing the power of these cells, Heman’s soap could become a game-changer in the fight against skin cancer.


The significance of Heman’s achievement did not go unnoticed. John Banovetz, executive vice president and chief technology officer of 3M, the organization behind the Young Scientist Challenge, emphasized the importance of young minds like Heman’s in tackling the world’s biggest challenges.

He praised the finalists for their intelligence, curiosity, collaboration, and resilience, noting that their work is truly inspiring.

Skin cancer is a prevalent issue in the United States, affecting countless individuals and burdening the healthcare system with its staggering treatment costs of $8.1 billion annually.

Heman’s soap provides hope for a more affordable solution that could positively impact skin cancer outcomes. With the potential to disrupt the status quo and save lives, this remarkable invention has the power to make a real difference.

Looking ahead, Heman has ambitious plans. Over the next five years, he aims to refine his soap and establish a nonprofit organization that will distribute this low-cost solution to communities in need.

His vision extends beyond personal success, as he seeks to bring his invention to those who may not have access to adequate healthcare resources.


Heman’s story is a testament to the incredible potential of young minds and the power of innovation. It serves as a reminder that age is no barrier to making a positive impact on the world.

As we celebrate his remarkable achievement, let us also be inspired to nurture and support the next generation of scientists and innovators, for they hold the key to a brighter future.