14-year old Indian-American teenager Anika Chebrolu discovers a molecule that could lead to a potential COVID-19 therapy
Anika Chebrolu is a 14-year old Indian-American teenager from Frisco, Texas. She won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, which is regarded as the premier middle school science competition in the US, for discovering a molecule that many hope could lead to a potential cure for COVID-19. She said she was driven by the scope of the pandemic and millions of people suffering from the virus. She began working on her project last school year when she was an eighth-grader at Nelson Middle School.
Last year, Chebrolu decided to take part in the challenge after she battled a severe influenza infection. She later who won a $25,000 young scientist challenge for a discovery that could provide a potential treatment for #COVID19. During her study, she 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.
Chebrolu later 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.
“Nighthawk Nation is so proud of Anika, who was always a standout student at Nelson,” Principal Mitzi Garner said. “She pursued new heights in and out of the classroom by taking risks, challenging herself, helping others and working to have a positive impact in every facet of her life.
“This amazing recognition is well deserved and just a sneak peek into the positive impact that Ms. Chebrolu will have on our society. Anika is the quintessential definition of future ready and I am eager to see all that she will accomplish.”
Chebrolu was selected over the summer as a top-ten nationwide finalist in the 3M/Discovery Young Scientist Challenge, regarded as the nation’s premier middle school science competition. As a finalist, she worked with 3M Corporate Scientist Dr. Mahfuza Ali, who mentored Chebrolu one-on-one throughout the summer. Together, they transformed her idea from concept to reality.
“Our heartfelt congratulations go to this year’s winner, Anika Chebrolu,” said Denise Rutherford, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at 3M. “Amidst the challenges of a global pandemic, quality STEM education for all has become an even more urgent need.”