A 14-year-old Indian-American student has discovered a key molecule that could potentially provide a coronavirus cure.
Anika Chebrolu, a Frisco, Texas native, is the 2020 winner of the 3M Young Scientist Challenge and the $25,000 prize that comes along with it. Chebrolu created an invention, using in-silico methodology (a computer simulation), to discover a lead molecule that researchers believe may assist in combating COVID-19. The molecule can selectively bind to “the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” according to CNN.
Chebrolu’s research wasn’t always focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. When she initially began the project, Chebrolu had her sights set on the influenza virus. She chose to take part in the Young Scientist Challenge following a difficult bout of influenza last year. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Chebrolu altered course and set her sights on the deadly virus. She noted that it was “crazy” to find herself living in the midst of a pandemic after spending so much time caught up in research about pandemics and viruses.
This prompted her to deviate course, shifting her research to focus on the coronavirus. One of the judges for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, Dr. Cindy Moss, praised Chebrolu’s methodology. “Her work was comprehensive and examined numerous databases,” Moss told CNN. “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.”
Chebrolu’s work isn’t finished. She told CNN that she intends to develop the molecule further, with the help of virologists, and that will ultimately determine how successful her research really is. Eventually, Chebrolu hopes that her research can contribute to a coronavirus cure.
Said Chebrolu: “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.”