A 16-year-old Canadian boy took home a CAN$5,000 prize for developing "a mix of drugs which could be used to fight cystic fibrosis" via a scientific supercomputing network:
Marshall Zhang, a Grade 11 student at Bayview Secondary School in Richmond Hill near Toronto, used Canada's collaborative SCINET super-net to model the effects of different compounds on the mutant proteins responsible for cystic fibrosis. The debilitating disease causes the natural protective mucus lining sufferers' lungs to become thick and sticky, forming an inviting environment for potentially fatal infections.
"Marshall's findings show that computational methods can drive the discovery of compounds that may offer effective treatment for cystic fibrosis," comments Dr Christine Bear of Canada's Hospital for Sick Children. Zhang carried out his groundbreaking work in Bear's lab.
The student apparently had a theory that combining multiple drugs could be more effective than treating the disease with just one:
"The cells treated with the two drugs were functioning as if they were the cells of healthy individuals," says Zhang. "The thrill of knowing that I was on the forefront of current knowledge was absolutely the best thing about my experience ... getting a taste of real research has definitely driven me towards pursuing science in the future."
The treatment was so impressive that Zhang was awarded the first place prize in the 2011 Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge.
Also of note, other winners in this competition "included a trio of youths who developed a way of making vegetarian sorbet." Which as far as I know, already existed. But good show!
Canadian kid uses supercomputing to cure cystic fibrosis [The Register]