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Texas teens earning praise, TV exposure for separate efforts fighting COVID pandemic

Fort Worth Star-Telegram logoFort Worth Star-Telegram 10/20/2020 By Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Two Texas teens are turning heads in the scientific and medical communities for their work fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The pair have been profiled separately by a bevy of television networks, newspapers and magazines locally and nationally.

On CNN Monday night, they were celebrated together on Cuomo Prime Time.

Anika Chebrolu, a 14-year-old from Frisco, and Taft Foley III, an 18-year-old from Houston, were featured in a live interview with Chris Cuomo, who highlighted the work they’ve each done in helping fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chebrolu dug deeper — much, much deeper — after a school science project led her into extensive research of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

“I was surprised at how many deaths and infections it caused across the world,” Chebrolu told host Chris Cuomo. “So after further research I came across a methodology for drug discovery that uses computational methods to identify potential antivirals.”

In short, she won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her work trying to find a potential drug to treat the coronavirus. Chebrolu isolated a molecule (out of a potential 698 million) that binds to certain protein in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If her antiviral works, the protein would stop the harmful protein in the coronavirus.

“My research actually is just a drop in the ocean of research being done by numerous scientists and individuals across the country,” Chebrolu said. “But at this point every effort matters to help end the pandemic and help control its aftermath.”

The eighth grader wants to become a medical researcher one day. Looks like she’s on her way.

Foley, sitting in a gaming chair in his bedroom in the Houston area, explained how he came up with the idea for a mobile testing lab that gives patients tests results in under 15 minutes.

He was training to be an Emergency Medical Technician in Corpus Christi earlier this year, helping to test patients for COVID-19 and was forced to self quarantine when he returned home to Houston as Texas’ youngest EMT. He waited two weeks to get his coronavirus test results.

“While I was self-quarantining, I thought there has got to be a better way,” Foley said. “That’s when I came up with the idea of a mobile lab. We specialize in testing at businesses, events and people’s homes.”

Texas Mobile Medical Labs performs the nasal swab rapid antigen tests and sends patients results by text or email in 15 minutes. It also partnered with Baylor Genetics Laboratories to do Polymerase Chain Reaction tests (PCR).

According to Forbes, the company does not accept insurance for the tests, which range between $100 and $150.

Cuomo dropped some breaking news personal to Foley at the end of the interview.

He informed Foley, after likely being fed the information from his parents, that he scored in the 98th percentile on the SAT. Foley was speechless.

“You’re lucky you’re sitting in that high-backed chair so you don’t fall on your hiney,” Cuomo joked. “Congratulations. Thank your parents for putting it in to both your heads and your hearts to do something with your life and thank God for both of you. Thank you for giving us hope.”

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