Teenager leads discovery in finding COVID-19 cure

Teenager leads discovery in finding COVID-19 cure

Scientists across the globe are on a race to find a treatment for COVID-19, however the standout in all of this is a teenage girl. 

Anika Chebrolu, a 14-year-old from Frisco, Texas, has just won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge and a whopping A$35,230 prize for a discovery that could give a potential therapy to COVID-19.

Anika's invention that won the prize uses in-silico methodology to uncover a lead molecule that can bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The teen submitted her project while she was in the 8th grade, but she admitted her goal was not initially to find a cure for COVID-19. 

Her original intention 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," Anika said.

"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."

Anika revealed she was inspired to find potential cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic. 

"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."

Anika said winning the prize and title of top young scientist is an honour, but her work is not completed. 

Her next goal is to research and work alongside scientists and researchers who are fighting to "control the morbidity and mortality" of the pandemic. 

She will aid in developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus.

"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 said.

"How I develop this molecule further with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine the success of these efforts."