Excellence is around us and it doesn’t matter age, race, gender, status or anything and such is the case recently with Anika Chebrolu, a freshman at Independence High School in Frisco, Texas, who earned the 3M Young Scientist Challenge Award for the in-silico methodology for drug discovery she used to find a molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and find a cure for COVID-19. Chebrolu won a $25,000 scholarship for her efforts, which could have dramatic implications.
According to the official 3M and competition press release, The SARS-CoV-2 virus is the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide and was declared a worldwide pandemic and public health emergency earlier this year. With the virus continuing to spread far and wide, there is an urgent need to find an effective anti-coronavirus drug. In her study, Anika 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. In her research, 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.
“I became interested in it because even with the antivirals that we have, even with the annual vaccination, even with our constant fight with the influenza virus, there’s still 60,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone due to the flu,” Anika told NYSE’s Floor Talk. “So I started my research on drug discovery and the influenza virus, and I ended up combining my knowledge of both of the subjects to create a novel antiviral drug against the flu. … With the help of my mentor, Dr. Mahfuza Ali, I switched topics and I targeted the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
Meet 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu, winner of this year’s @3M Young Scientist Challenge
— NYSE 🏛 (@NYSE) October 16, 2020