As scientists around the world scramble to find a vaccine for COVID-19, a 14-year-old Indian American girl could hold an important piece to the puzzle.

Anika Chebrolu, from Frisco, Texas, recently won US$25,000 after being named America's Top Young Scientist in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, for her discovery of a molecule that could lead to a cure for the coronavirus.

Anika's project, submitted when she was in the eighth grade, involved using in-silico methods to identify a lead compound that could bind to the spike proteins of the influenza virus. The spike proteins sit on the surface of the virus and help it penetrate into cells.

The molecule Anika found could bind and inhibit the spike protein, potentially stopping the virus from entering cells, and thus, preventing an infection.

Although the project had initially been focused on the common influenza virus, Anika, with the help of her mentor cum scientist Dr Mahfuza Ali from 3M, to change the focus on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which caused COVID-19.

According to Anika, she was inspired to find potential cures to viruses, after suffering from a bout of flu last year, and also after reading up on the 1918 flu pandemic, which reportedly killed up to an estimated 50 million people, worldwide.

The young scientist, who trains Bharathanatyam on her spare time, hopes to relay her findings to, and work with scientists and researches who are slogging to find a cure for COVID-19.

"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.

"How I develop this molecule further with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine the success of these efforts," she was quoted telling CNN.

A praiseworthy achievement indeed. With her brilliance, Anika might just contribute big to finding a cure for the coronavirus, and when that happens, it would be a reason for celebration for all, especially Indians, around the world.

Source: CNN,
Photo source: CNN