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A Texas teenager has been awarded $25,000 for her work on a possible cure for COVID-19.
While researchers all around the world forge ahead with new developments in medicine, Anika Chebrolu, a student at Independence High School in Frisco, has been dubbed America’s top young scientist for her efforts to find a treatment for coronavirus.
The 14-year-old won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the ‘nation’s premier middle school science competition’, which comes with the cash prize and a ‘special destination trip’.
As for her work, Anika explained to CBS News, ‘I developed this molecule that can bind to a certain protein on the SARS COVID-2 virus. This protein, by binding to it, it will stop the function of the protein… I started with a database of over 682 million compounds.’
She went on to screen millions of ‘small molecules for drug-likeness properties, ADMET properties, and binding affinities against the spike protein’ using an array of software tools. It’s currently unknown whether she’s tested her research on a live model. ‘It’s exciting. I’m still trying to process everything,’ she said.
As per a further press release, ‘binding and inhibiting this viral protein would potentially stop the virus entry into the cell, creating a viable drug target’. Assisting with her research was Dr. Mahfuza Ali, a 3M corporate scientist assigned as a mentor for Anika, helping to transfer her ideas to a physical prototype.
While her original plans were based around the seasonal flu, Anika switched her focus to COVID-19 as the pandemic grew in scale. ‘We just always have this constant fear who’s going to be affect by the coronavirus,’ she said.
Describing herself as ‘a person who aspires to be a lot of things’, she explained:
My grandpa, when I was younger, he always used to push me toward science. He was actually a chemistry professor, and he used to always tell me learn the periodic table of the elements and learn all these things about science and over time I just grew to love it.
Denise Rutherford, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at 3M, said, ‘In spite of challenges, like adjusting to new norms of distance learning and participating in virtual events, this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge finalists have smashed through barriers with grit, creativity, innovative thinking, and excitement – all in the name of applying science to improve lives.’
Kyle Tianshi, a student at The Cambridge School in San Diego, California, came in second place with a device that can detect invisible particles in water, helping to assess water quality and prevent contamination.
Laasya Acharya, from Mason Middle School in Ohio, placed third by using image analysis to detect crop diseases via a neural network.
It’s okay to not panic. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our coronavirus campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization on coronavirus, click here.