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3M Young Scientist Challenge winner is Anika Chebrolu, who won for a coronavirus discovery



Anika Chebrolu, a 14-year-old from Frisco, Texas, has just won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge 2020 – and a $ 25,000 prize – for a discovery that could provide a potential therapy for Covid-19.

Anika’s winning invention uses the in-silico method to detect a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“The last two days I saw that there is a lot of media hype around my project as it involves the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it reflects our collective hope to end this pandemic as I like everyone else want us to going back to our normal lives soon, ”Anika told CNN.

Coronavirus has killed more than 1.1 million people globally since China reported its first case to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December. The United States has more than 21
9,000 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Anika, who is Native American, submitted her project when she was in 8th grade – but it would not always be focused on finding a cure for Covid-19.

Originally, her goal was to use in-silico methods to identify a lead compound that could bind to an influenza virus protein.

“After spending so much time researching pandemics, viruses and drug discovery, it was crazy to think I was actually living through something like this,” said Anika.

“Because of the enormous severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and the drastic impact it had had on the world in such a short time, I changed direction with the help of my mentor to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Anika said she was inspired to find potential cures for viruses after learning about the flu pandemic in 1918 and finding out how many people die each year in the United States despite annual vaccinations and anti-flu drugs on the market.

“Anika has a curious mind and used her curiosity to ask questions about a vaccine for Covid-19,” said Dr. Cindy Moss, a judge for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, to CNN.

“Her work was extensive and researched several databases. She also developed an understanding of the innovation process and is a master communicator. Her willingness to use her time and talent to make the world a better place gives us all hope.”

Anika performs Bharatanatyam, an ancient Indian dance.

Anika said winning the award and the title as the top young scientist is an honor, but her work is not finished.

Her next goal, she says, is to work with scientists and researchers struggling to “control the disease and mortality” of the pandemic by developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus.

“My efforts to find a lead compound to bind to the tip protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus this summer may seem like a drop in the ocean, but still add to all of these efforts,” she said. “How I further develop this molecule with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine if these efforts succeed.”

Of course, Anika also finds time to be a normal 14-year-old. When she is not in a laboratory or working towards her goal of becoming a doctor or researcher, Anika trains for the Indian classical dance called Bharatanatyam, which she has been practicing for eight years.

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