Washington: An Indian-American teenager Anika Chebrolu has been awarded $25,000 for her research to find a treatment for the coronavirus. The 14-year-old from Texas, has just won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her work on a potential drug to treat COVID-19, reports CNN.
The schoolgirl has developed a molecule that can bind to a certain protein of the coronavirus and prevent it from functioning.
“I developed this molecule that can bind to a certain protein on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This protein by binding to it it will stop the function of the protein,” the eight-grader was quoted as saying by ABC News.
“It’s exciting. I’m still trying to process everything,” she said of her big win.
Anika wasn’t always focused on the coronavirus. Chebrolu decided to take part in the Young Scientist Challenge after she battled a severe influenza infection last year. She wanted to find a cure for influenza. However, that all changed after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the website said.
“I was drawn towards finding effective cures for influenza disease after a severe bout of the infection last year,” Chebrolu said.
In order to find a potential drug for the highly infectious virus, the 14-year-old used multiple computer programs to identify how and where the molecule would bind to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Anika used in-silico methodology for drug discovery to find a molecule that can selectively bind to the Spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in an attempt to find a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to ABC News, it is not clear whether her research has been tested on a live model.
Anika, who hopes to be a medical researcher and professor one day, said that her grandfather inspired her interest in science.
“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,” she said.
She told CNN that the media hype around her science project is indicative of the fact that everyone wants the pandemic to end. “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.”