Regeneron and the Society for Science recently named Saathvik Kannan, a soon-to-be senior at Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri, winner of a Regeneron Young Scientist Award. The 2023 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair presented high school students with the opportunity to compete for two awards of $50,000 for innovative and science-focused research. Kannan also took first-place honors and an additional $5,000 in the fair’s computational biology and bioinformatics division. According to the Society for Science website, “These finalists are selected for their commitment to innovation in tackling challenging scientific questions, using authentic research practices and creating solutions to the problems of tomorrow.”
Kamlendra Singh, PhD, an assistant professor of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and assistant director of the Molecular Interactions Core, has worked with Kannan since the end of his eighth-grade school year. Kannan’s father, Raghuraman Kannan, PhD, a professor of radiology at Mizzou and Singh’s friend, introduced the two and they have been working together since.
Kannan’s award-winning project focused on the Mpox virus and using biocomputational methods to understand the causes of heightened infectivity in the virus. According to the Society for Science website, “Saathvik’s approach, named Bioplex, uses a combination of machine learning and three-dimensional comparative protein modeling 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 antivirals. Saathvik believes scientists will also be able to apply Bioplex to future outbreaks of other viruses.”
Singh says Kannan is currently working on two additional projects that focus on COVID-19 and cancer, and that each of these projects will result in future publications in high impact journals.
Singh says Kannan’s research is so good he knew it deserved to be entered into the competition. When asked how he felt about Kannan being named the winner of the Regeneron Young Scientist Award, Singh responded, “Extremely proud.”
By Nick Childress