Anika Chebrolu, the 14-year-old who developed an antiviral drug that could combat COVID-19, was awarded $25,000 at this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge for the potential cure.
Now a freshman at Independence High School, Chebrolu entered the competition when she was only an eighth-grader. Her original intent was to find a way to fight the flu better, but her interests shifted when the coronavirus came around.
“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 are still 60,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone due to the flu,” Chebrolu said. “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.”
Using compute programs, Chebrolu was able to “see how a molecule could bind to a specific protein in the SARS COVID-2 virus and effectively inhibit the protein’s function,” Complex reported.
With the $25k, Chebrolu will further her COVID-19 research and donate to Academy Aid, her self-started nonprofit that provides academic support.
“A lot of kids around the world are not given the same opportunities as me, and if they were, they could accomplish so much more,” Chebrolu said in response to why she started her nonprofit over the summer. “Some of the money that I earned from this amazing competition [will go] to Academy Aide. I would also use some of the money to continue my research and further develop my antiviral into an effective and potent drug.”