Scientists around the world are racing to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine. A recent discovery made by Anika Chebrolu, a 14-year-old high school student in Texas, could form part of a potential treatment for the virus.

The annual 3M Young Scientist Challenge invited students in grades 5-8 to submit a 1-2 minute video describing a unique solution to an everyday problem for the chance to win $25,000 (R409 372) and an exclusive 3M Mentorship. Ten finalists were chosen for their passion for science, spirit of innovation and ingenuity, and effective communication skills.

Chebrolu from Frisco, Texas won the challenge on Wednesday, October 14 for discovering a molecule that can selectively bind to the SARS-COV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Her discovery could be a major key in COVID-19 research.

By binding to the spike protein, the molecule she discovered could prevent the virus from entering into the host cell. It could thus be used in creating a potential treatment to cure COVID-19.

Initially, Chebrolu had planned to base her project on the influenza virus but pivoted when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. At the time of submitting the project, she was in Grade 8.

Speaking to CNN, she said she hopes to work alongside scientists and researchers to develop her discovery into an actual cure.

“My effort to find a lead compound to bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus this summer may appear to be a drop in the ocean, but still adds to all these efforts,” she said. “How I develop this molecule further with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine the success of these efforts.”

Picture: Screenshot from video

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