Teen wins $25k for finding molecule that may disarm coronavirus

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, a 14-year-old from Texas has won a national science competition for identifying a molecule that can bind to the virus and potentially disable it.

Anika Chebrolu, who hails from Frisco, used computer modeling to search for a compound that binds tightly to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein — a structure that juts off the coronavirus surface and plugs into human cells to trigger infection. In theory, such a compound should prevent the virus from infecting cells. When designing new antiviral drugs, scientists often perform computational studies, just like Chebrolu’s, as a critical first step.

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