Indian-American teen wins $50,000 Young Scientist award

Saathvik Kannan of David H Hickman High School in Columbia is awarded for using biocomputational methods to understand the causes of heightened infectivity in the disease mpox

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Indian-American teen wins $50,000 Young Scientist award

New York: A 17-year-old Indian-origin student in Missouri has won the prestigious Regeneron Young Scientist Awards of $50,000 for his research relating to the mpox virus. Saathvik Kannan of David H Hickman High School in Columbia was awarded for using biocomputational methods to understand the causes of heightened infectivity in the disease mpox after it re-emerged in 2022. Saathvik’s approach, named Bioplex, uses a combination of machine learning and three-dimensional comparative protein modelling to decode structures like those that enable the mpox virus to replicate.

This allowed him to identify the mutations in the virus that likely made it more infectious as well as other mutations that could make it resistant to antibiotics.

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He credited his mentor, Kamlendra Singh, an assistant professor of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri. “I was overjoyed and incredibly excited!” Saathvik wrote in an email to the Columbia Daily Tribute about the prize.

“I felt that it reflected our work with Dr Singh’s mentorship and guidance over the last few years culminating in my project from this year.” Saathvik believes scientists will also be able to apply Bioplex to future outbreaks of other viruses.

More than 1,600 young scientists and engineers representing 49 states and 64 countries across the world competed at the 2023 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. Saathvik also took first place in the fair’s computational biology and bioinformatics division, receiving another $5,000.

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