Texas Teenager Wins $25K Prize For a Discovery that Could Lead to Coronavirus Cure

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A 14-year-old girl from Texas won a $25,000 contest from 3M called the “Young Scientist Challenge" after possibly unlocking a treatment for coronavirus. Anika Chebrolu, from Frisco, won the challenge over the weekend after she found a way to provide a potential therapy to Covid-19.

The teen’s winning invention uses in-silico methodology to discover a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to CNN.

"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," Anika told CNN.

Her project, which was submitted when she was in the 8th grade earlier this year, wasn’t always focused on the novel COVID-19. CNN reports that her initial goal was to use in-silico methods to identify a lead compound that could bind 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," she told the news outlet. "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 said she was inspired to find a cure after reading about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and then seeing how many people die of the flu each year even though there are vaccines on the available worldwide.

"Anika has an inquisitive mind and used her curiosity to ask questions about a vaccine for COVID-19," Dr. Cindy Moss, a 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."

Coronavirus has killed more than 1.1 million people globally since December. The United States has more than 219,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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