Garden Grove Unified student earns global recognition for cancer-detecting toothbrush

La Quinta High School student Phuc James Chau Nguyen

A prototype for an early cancer-detecting toothbrush scored high school student Phuc James Chau Nguyen an exclusive spot in the Rise global initiative program alongside 99 other change-making students from around the world.  

Last month, James was announced as one of the Rise program’s global winners during an interview on Good Morning America. The La Quinta High School senior answered questions about his project and gave advice on preventative health care. During their live TV appearance, James and four of his fellow Rise finalists learned that they were among the competition winners. 

Students accepted into the Rise Global Winners program will be offered lifetime benefits that include college scholarships and mentorships, as well as opportunities for career development like business funding and educational support. The selected students will also be able to attend a paid, three-week residential summit hosted by Rise.

James demonstrated his plans to treat various forms of cancer through video and research paper submissions. He utilized microfluidic devices to create his prototype, gained investments for a startup, and analyzed biological data to model Universal CAR-T cells for a treatment drug.

James said he felt called to conduct this research after his grandma died from cancer. His studies were featured in national and scientific journals, which led him to develop the cancer-detecting toothbrush model. 

“We are impressed and inspired by the dedication and academic discipline James has demonstrated as he works toward his important goal of early cancer detection innovations,” Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education President Bob Harden said in a statement. “James is a wonderful representation of La Quinta High School and as a scholar who is well on his way to achieving lifelong success.” 

The Rise global initiative was founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, as a $1 billion program to support students age 15 to 17 who are working to make a difference in the lives of others. This year, more than 120,000 students from over 170 countries submitted their innovative, philanthropic ideas in the contest.