In case Crescenta Valley High School student Lyron Co Ting Keh needed validation he was, indeed, young and innovative, the senior will soon receive more than his share of confirmation.
Co Ting Keh, 17, was named one of five “Young Innovators to Watch” from the United States and Canada by technology and lifestyle event producers Living in Digital Times, and is heading to Las Vegas to be honored at a giant consumer electronics show produced by Living in Digital Times on Thursday.
“I’m honored, humbled and I didn’t expect any recognition for my work, in general,” Co Ting Keh said. “It’s surprising.”
Co Ting Keh and his mother, Rowena, father, Edmundo, and older sister, Lace, are all flying to Las Vegas for the honor.
Along with airfare and a hotel stay, there’s $500 in prize money, Lenovo computer equipment, a tour of the show, which is closed to minors, and three minutes to pitch his product to industry professionals.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what other innovators and other people’s opinion of my work is,” Co Ting Keh said.
The teen created a machine-learning algorithm model called HICCUP, which stands for Hierarchical Classification of Cancer of Unknown Primary.
Cancer of Unknown Primary, or CUP, is defined by the American Cancer Society when, “cancer is found in one or more metastatic sites but the primary site cannot be determined.”
The American Cancer Society estimates 31,810 cases were diagnosed in 2018, which accounts for 2% of all cancer cases.
Co Ting Keh has calculated that his model is roughly 18% more accurate than industry standards in diagnosing CUP.
HICCUP requires a blood sample to track DNA released by a cancerous tumor into the bloodstream, a test he contends is considerably cheaper and less invasive than other industry procedures.
“Current methods to carry out the diagnosis, like MRI and biopsies, are often costly, inaccurate or harmful,” Co Ting Keh said. “That’s what drove me to develop HICCUP.”
Co Ting Keh created HICCUP while at Stanford University’s Alizadeh Lab, where he’s been working on and off the last two years in between attending Crescenta Valley High.
“Every summer, I go up there and work there pretty much full-time,” Co Ting Keh said. “I go up there for Thanksgiving break and winter break and fly up and work whenever I can.”
Robin Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times, said the selection of Co Ting Keh was a “no-brainer” after committee members who eventually chose him did a little research.
“What kind of kid works at a lab at Stanford?” Raskin said. “We thought, ‘Well, maybe he’s just regurgitating what they’re teaching or talking about at the lab?’ We called up the lab, and they said he was the ‘brains’ behind many of the algorithms they were using. We were amazed.”
Co Ting Keh was selected out of a pool of 100 candidates and is one of two winners from California, joining Cupertino High’s Kumaran Akilan.
While Co Ting Keh has already been accepted to Yale University, he’s still waiting to make an official collegiate decision until he’s received word from all prospective schools.
Until graduation, he’ll continue his work at the lab during breaks and also via remote access.
“The recognition is nice,” Co Ting Keh said, “but the work continues.”