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Frisco teen discovers potential COVID-19 treatment, winning her a $25K prize and national recognition

Anika Chebrolu, a freshman at Independence High School, was named America’s Top Young Scientist.

A freshman at Independence High School in Frisco has been named America’s Top Young Scientist after discovering a potential means to treat COVID-19.

Anika Chebrolu, 14, was named the winner of the 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her research into a compound that could bind to the coronavirus and inhibit its ability to infect people. She also earned the Improving Lives Award, according to a release from Frisco ISD.

“I am extremely humbled at being selected America’s Top Young Scientist as all of the finalists had amazing projects and were extremely well-rounded individuals,” Anika said in the release. “Science is the basis of life and the entire universe and we have a long way to go to understand it fully.”

Hoping to someday become a medical researcher and professor, Anika began her study last year while attending Nelson Middle School after she had a severe case of the flu.

She used software to screen millions of small molecules for their potential as therapeutic drugs and specifically for their binding ability against a spike protein.

Through her research, she discovered a molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, potentially stopping its ability to infect human cells. It could become a viable drug target for the treatment of COVID-19, according to the district’s release.

Over the summer, Anika was selected as one of 10 national finalists for the challenge. She worked one-on-one with 3M corporate scientist Mahfuza Ali, who helped cultivate her idea.

Anika said she hopes to continue working with 3M scientists to conduct testing of the drug candidate, according to a Q&A about her project on the 3M website. The Dallas Morning News has reached out to Anika to conduct a separate Q&A this week.

In addition to her title as America’s Top Young Scientist, Anika also received a $25,000 cash prize and a special destination trip.

Brandi Addison, Special Contributor. Brandi is a freelancer covering all things Frisco. She graduated from Texas Tech in December 2018, and soon after, began her career as a reporter in West Texas. She recently moved back to D-FW, which she calls home.

brandi.d.addison@outlook.com BrandiDAddison
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