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Meet the 14-year-old Indian-American, whose discovery may help in the treatment of Covid-19

Anika Chebrolu, an eighth-grader from Frisco in Texas, has won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge which is regarded as the US' premier middle school science competition, for her work that could provide a potential therapy to Covid-19.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 19, 2020 7:54:04 pm
Anika Chebrolu decided to compete in the Young Scientist Challenge after she battled a severe influenza infection last year. (Youtube/Anika Chebrolu)

As the whole world eagerly awaits for a vaccine to offer protection against the novel coronavirus, a discovery by a 14-year-old Indian American teen might show a way forward.

Anika Chebrolu, an eighth-grader from Frisco in Texas, has won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge which is regarded as the US’ premier middle school science competition, for her work that could provide a potential therapy to Covid-19.

According to the 3M Challenge website, Chebrolu’s work uses an in-silico methodology to discover a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The teenager decided to compete in the Young Scientist Challenge after she battled a severe influenza infection last year. She wanted to find a cure for influenza. However, all that changed after the pandemic hit early this year, the website said.

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

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

Chebrolu was one of the 10 finalists in this year’s competition. In addition to an exclusive 3M Mentorship, she also bagged a prize money of $25,000 prize.

Talking to CNN, Dr Cindy Moss, one of the judge for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, said that Chebrolu has an inquisitive mind and used her curiosity to ask questions about a vaccine for Covid-19.

“Her work was comprehensive and examined numerous databases. She also developed an understanding of the innovation process and is a masterful communicator. Her willingness to use her time and talent to help make the world a better place gives us all hope,” Moss was quoted as saying by the website.

The 14-year-old also that she was inspired to find potential cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and finding out how many people die every year in the States despite vaccinations and anti-influenza drugs being available on the market.

Chebrolu also says that even though the winning title and prize money is an honour, but her work isn’t quite done yet. She says her next goal is to work alongside scientists and researchers who are fighting to “control the morbidity and mortality” of the pandemic by developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus.

“My effort to find a lead compound to bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus this summer may appear to be a drop in the ocean, but still adds to all these efforts,” she told CNN. “How I develop this molecule further with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine the success of these efforts,” Chebrolu, who also practices Bharatanatyam, said.

The novel coronavirus has so far killed more than 1.1 million people globally since it was first reported in China in December 2019.

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