Indian American Saathvik Kannan Wins $50K for His STEM Project on Virus Outbreaks in USA’s Junior Nobel

The thundering applause that arose from all quarters for 8th grader Dev Shah having won the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee is still echoing in America and India. Giving wind to this is the remarkable achievement of another Indian-origin young talent, Saathvik Kannan. 17-year-old Saathvik from Hickman High School finished among the best 10 young STEM leaders in the Regeneron Science Talent Search and won a whopping $50,000 cash prize. 

Saathvik Kannan Regeneron Young Scientist, Young Indians in America, Indian American community news


Virus and nuclear weaponry are the deadliest threats to the existence of life on our planet. While international agreements among countries act as safeguards to mitigate nuclear risks to the world, the menace of a contagious virus takes years to be contained. Decoding what causes the emergence or resurgence of a virus outbreak is a key to containing future outbreaks. This is where Indian American Saathvik Kannan’s award-winning research comes into play.

In his project for the Regeneron Science Talent Search, he applied bio-computational models to unearth and understand the factors causing such infectious diseases as monkeypox that resurged in 2022 when the COVID-19 pandemic began to recede in most parts of the world. In May 2022, London detected the first case of m-pox virus in a person who had been to Nigeria where monkeypox was an endemic.

The approach he took to shaping the project is called BioPlex. BioPlex is an open access resource for studying protein-protein interactions, according to Wikipedia. BioPlex minerals that get easily bound to amino acids and peptides are absorbed and metabolized in the body. That’s why he adopted this approach and used machine learning as well as 3-dimensional protein modelling to study the structure of multi-protein complexes and their mutations that support proliferation of the virus.

Saathvik Kannan’s project provides a foundation for understanding the factors that are likely to cause new virus outbreaks any time in the future. “It is evident from the sequential waves of the COVID-19 pandemic that any virus can resurge from its dormant state in a short period of time. Hence, my research has lots of potential to help understand the root causes for future outbreaks,” said Kannan. Reportedly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert, on May 15, for a new outbreak of monkeypox this summer.

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