14-year-old Anika Chebrolu was just named the winner of the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge, an annual innovation competition hosted in partnership with Discovery Education. The eight-grader from Frisco, Texas earned the ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ title for using in-silico methods to identify a molecule that can selectively bind to the Spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in an attempt to develop a potential cure – in the form of a novel antiviral drug – for COVID-19.
When Anika entered 3M’s 2020 Young Scientist Challenge her original goal was to identify a lead compound that could bind to a protein of the influenza virus to develop a novel anti-influenza drug. But she switched gears when the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread across the globe. In an interview with CNN, the young scientist whose future goal is to be a medical researcher and professor explained, “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.”
Of her reasons for entering the Young Scientist Challenge Anika said, “I have always been amazed by science experiments since my childhood and I was drawn towards finding effective cures for Influenza disease after a severe bout of the infection last year. I would like to learn more from 3M scientists to pursue my drug development and with their help, would like to conduct in-vitro and in-vivo testing of my lead drug candidate.”
In taking this year’s top prize, which includes the ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ title, a $25,000 cash prize, and a one-of-a-kind 2 day/1-night destination trip, Anika competed against nine other finalists. Be sure to check out her entry video that led to her challenge win…
Last year’s 2019 3M Young Scientist Challenge winner was 14-year-old Kara Fan, a ninth-grader from San Diego, California, who came up with a real-world, problem-solving invention – a first aid liquid bandage using nano-silver technology to reduce the risk of superbug infections caused by antibiotic overuse.