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14-Year-Old Girl Wins $25k For a Scientific Breakthrough That Could Lead to COVID-19 Cure

3M/Discovery Education

With the impact of the pandemic continuing to spread far and wide, people around the world are waiting for news on a possible treatment for the virus. 

There’s good news on that front, as a 14-year-old girl from Texas has discovered a molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2. 

Binding and inhibiting this viral protein would potentially stop the virus entry into the cell, creating a viable drug target. 

For her breakthrough, eighth grader Anika Chebrolu has been named the winner of the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge—America’s premier middle school science competition. 

As part of her research, Frisco’s Anika screened millions of small molecules for drug-likeness properties, ADMET properties, and binding affinities against the spike protein using numerous software tools. 

The one molecule with the best pharmacological and biological activity towards the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was chosen as the lead molecule that can be a potential drug for the effective treatment of COVID-19.

READ: Tennessee High School Students Collect 10K Face Masks For Those in Need, Sharing Advice For Other Youth

According to a statement, she and the nine other finalists have spent the past few months working with a 3M scientist who acted as mentor and worked one-on-one to transform an idea from concept to physical prototype. 

Anika wasn’t initially planning on studying a coronavirus. After being stricken with a bad bout of flu last year, she was actually hoping to help find a cure for influenza. 

But then COVID-19 hit the globe, and she knew just what to focus her attention on.

For her work looking at spike proteins, Anika can now proudly call herself “America’s Top Young Scientist.” On top of a $25,000 gift for her award-winning work, she’s also going to receive a special destination trip. 

MORE: New Mexico Girl Wins $250,000 Top Prize in Teen Science Fair For Inventing Tool That Could Prevent Starvation in Africa

For this STEM hero, however, it’s not about the awards or the trips. “Science is the basis of life and the entire universe and we have a long way to go understand it fully,” she told Yahoo.

CHECK OUT: Nigerian-Irish Teens Develop a Dementia App for Sufferers Coping With Lockdown–and It’s Won Awards

And this is just the beginning of Anika’s COVID-19 work. She explained, “how I develop this molecule further with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine the success of these efforts.”

Here’s at GNN, we’re wishing the Texas teen every success in her endeavors.

(WATCH Anika explain her fascinating research in the video below.)

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