Anika Chebrolu is an Indian American girl from Frisco in Texas who, at the age of fourteen, won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge, and a $25,000 prize, for her work on a potential drug to treat the COVID-19. Along with this, she also won the prestigious title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”
Anika Chebrolu was born in 2006 (age 14 years; as of 2020), in Frisco, Texas. She attended the Nelson Middle School in Frisco, Texas where she studied till eighth grade. Later, she attended Independence High School in Frisco, Texas.
Anika Chebrolu belongs to an Indian American family of South Asian ethnicity. There is not much information about her family.
She credits her grandfather, who was a chemistry professor, for pushing her to thrive in science.
My grandpa, when I was younger, he always used to push me toward science. He was actually a chemistry professor, and he used to always tell me learn the periodic table of the elements and learn all these things about science and over time I just grew to love it.”
Winner of 3M Young Scientist Challenge
On October 14, 2020, 3M, in partnership with Discovery Education, announced Anika Chebrolu, an Indian American student, the winner of the 2020 Young Scientist Challenge competition. In the 13th annual contest, students in grades five to eight were called to submit a video demonstrating an innovation that could help provide a solution to an everyday problem. Anika Chebrolu was adjudged the winner among ten finalists who were selected by a panel of judges. Anika won $25,000 in the competition for her work on a potential treatment for the COVID-19. On Anika winning the competition, Dr. Cindy Moss, one of the judges for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, termed her a girl with an inquisitive mind who used her curiosity to ask questions about a vaccine for the COVID-19, he said,
Her work was comprehensive and examined numerous databases. She also developed an understanding of the innovation process and is a masterful communicator. Her willingness to use her time and talent to help make the world a better place gives us all hope.”
Anika’s Winning Invention
Anika Chebrolu won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her work on a potential drug that uses in-silico methodology to discover a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. She developed a novel antiviral drug to combat the spread of the COVID-19 by extensively researching protein spikes in coronavirus. In her study, Anika discovered a molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2. It is believed that the virus entry into the cell would potentially stop after binding and inhibiting this viral protein; creating a viable drug target.
An Extensive Research
In her research, Anika Chebrolu screened millions of small molecules for ADMET properties, drug-likeness properties, and drug toxicity properties. She also did extensive research over binding affinities of small molecules against the spike protein using numerous software tools. Among these molecules, the one, with the best pharmacological and biological activity towards the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, was chosen as the lead molecule, and this lead molecule could be a potential drug for the effective treatment of the COVID-19. In an interview, while talking about her research, she said,
After spending so much time researching about pandemics, viruses and drug discovery, it was crazy to think that I was actually living through something like this.”
In her research, Anika Chebrolu worked with 3M Corporate Scientist Dr. Mahfuza Ali who mentored her one-on-one throughout the summer. Under the mentorship of Dr. Mahfuza Ali, Anika transformed her idea from concept to reality. In an interview, while talking about her mentor and working amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she said,
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.”
After winning the prize and title of “America’s Top Young Scientist,” Anika Chebrolu felt honored; however, she considers that her work isn’t done, and her next goal is to work alongside scientists and researchers to find a cure for the COVID-19. She says,
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.”
- The 3M Young Scientist Challenge is regarded as the US’ premier middle school science competition.
- Reportedly, Anika Chebrolu decided to compete in the Young Scientist Challenge after she battled a severe influenza infection in 2019.
- It was the first time in the history of the competition that the 3M Young Scientist Challenge showcased the top ten finalist projects, and it was also the first time that the winner was announced in a virtual event.
- Besides receiving a $25,000 cash prize, Anika Chebrolu also won the prestigious title of “America’s Top Young Scientist,” and a special destination trip. BioSpace
- According to Anika, she was inspired to find potential cures for viruses after she learned about the 1918 flu pandemic.
- Anika loves the Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam, and she has been practicing this dance form for eight years. CNN
- She is also good at sketching and has a good collection of her sketches.