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Flu drug research takes Intel STS top honors

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8:05am, March 12, 2014

Intel STS 2014 winners (left to right) William Kuszmaul, Kevin Lee and Eric Chen.

WASHINGTON — A teenager’s computer analyses that identified six potential new flu-fighting compounds claimed first place March 11 at the awards gala for the 2014 Intel Science Talent Search.

Eric Chen, 17, of San Diego won the $100,000 by using supercomputers to analyze molecules that might block activity of an enzyme that all flu viruses use to reproduce. From a database of more than 450,000 compounds, he narrowed the list to 237. Lab studies identified six potent antiflu agents. The research may lead to medicines that could work during a flu outbreak while new vaccines are developed.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” Chen said. “All the other students are so amazing.”

Chen’s winning effort beat the research presented by 39 other Intel STS finalists (SN: 2/8/14, p. 26), who had been winnowed from 1,794 entrants representing 45 states, the District of Columbia and seven overseas schools.

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