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Student, 16, invents new drug cocktail to fight cystic fibrosis, wins Canadian biotech challenge

Fort Richmond Collegiate, Winnipeg, who combined the standard drug treatment for leukaemia with a lung cancer drug to greatly increase the numbers of leukemia cells being killed.

14 truly cutting-edge biotechnology projects

On Monday, remarkable students from every province presented the judges with 14 truly cutting-edge biotechnology projects related to health, agriculture and the environment. All were previous prize-winners at regional SABC competitions held across Canada in April.

All 13 to 19 years old and enrolled in Grades 9 through 12, the students were mentored by university professors and others who volunteer their expertise and many hours over several months each year to assist these young researchers.

How a 16-year-old used a supercomputer to find a promising new treatment for cystic fibrosis

Grade 11 student Marshall Zhang impressed many experts when he used the Canadian SCINET supercomputing network to discover a new and potentially effective drug cocktail to treat cystic fibrosis.

The results demonstrated the usefulness of computer-based approaches to discover drug-like compounds.

"Marshall's findings show that computational methods can drive the discovery of compounds that may offer effective treatment for cystic fibrosis," says his project mentor Dr. Christine Bear, a researcher at the Hospital for Sick Children's Research Institute.

CF is a common genetic disease where the lungs' normal protective coating of thin mucus becomes thick and sticky -- an inviting environment for serious, sometimes fatal bacterial infections. A genetic mutation is responsible for most cases of CF. Leading research currently in clinical trials suggests that specific drugs may help correct this defect.

At Dr. Bear's lab at Sick Kids, Marshall used sophisticated SCINET computer modeling to investigate what these drugs might be doing to 'correct' the genetic defect at the mole

Contact: Terry Collins
Bioscience Education Canada

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