Teen Wins $25k for Finding Molecule that May Disarm Coronavirus
By Nicoletta Lanese | Live Science Staff Writer
October 20, 2020 | With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, a 14-year-old from Texas has won a national science competition for identifying a molecule that can bind to the virus and potentially disable it.
(Image: © Shutterstock)
Anika Chebrolu, who hails from Frisco, used computer modeling to search for a compound that binds tightly to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein — a structure that juts off the coronavirus surface and plugs into human cells to trigger infection. In theory, such a compound should prevent the virus from infecting cells. When designing new antiviral drugs, scientists often perform computational studies, just like Chebrolu’s, as a critical first step.
For her impressive work, Chebrolu earned first prize in the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a U.S.-based science competition for middle-school students. Chebrolu signed up for the contest months ago while still in middle school, with the initial intention of studying influenza, according to a video interview with KTVT, a CBS-affiliate.