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A 14-Year-Old Girl Won A $25K Prize After Making A Discovery That Might Lead To A Covid-19 Cure

Since the report of its first case from China to the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus has claimed more than 1.1 million lives across the globe. In the United States alone, there have been more than 219,000 deaths according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. So of course, scientists and doctors across the globe are on the hunt for a coronavirus treatment. Amongst them includes 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu.

The student from Frisco, Texas recently won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge for a discovery that could prove helpful in giving potential therapy to Covid-19.

Chebrolu won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge for a design that utilizes in-silico methodology “to discover 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 about my project since it involves the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it reflects our collective hopes to end this pandemic as I, like everyone else, wish that we go back to our normal lives soon,” Chebrolu told CNN in an interveiw.

The Indian American teen submitted her project when she was in 8th grade, initially not intending at all for it to be centered on finding a cure for Covid-19. According to CNN, her initial goal had been to use in-silico methods to identify a lead compound that would attach to a protein of the influenza virus.

“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 explained.”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.”

Speaking to CNN, Chebrolu explained that she had been driven to find cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and discovering that nearly 2 million people die from the flu despite annual vaccinations and anti-influenza drugs.

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

In addition to winning the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, Chebrolu won a $25K prize.

According to CNN, she enjoys dancing Bharatanatyam, which is an ancient Indian dance, and says her efforts have just begun.

“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.”

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