Scottsdale teen working to speed up drug discovery process

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Scottsdale BASIS graduate Anvita Gupta is steadfastly working toward improving the world’s pharmaceutical industry through biotechnology.

Ms. Gupta’s passion began after a close family friend passed away from pancreatic cancer when she was in the 10th grade. After learning the best way to treat the illness is by removing part of the pancreas, Ms. Gupta began researching the drug discovery process.

“I became interested in looking at how to make the drug discovery process cheaper, and bring new therapies to the market for people who need them,” said Ms. Gupta during a June 17 phone interview.

Her project, titled “Novel Therapeutics for Genetic and Infectious Diseases: Drug Discovery Targeting Intrinsically Disordered Proteins” focuses on using big data analytics for improving the drug discovery process.

“It takes 10 years and $5 billion dollars to bring a single drug to market,” said Ms. Gupta. “My research focuses on reducing the time and cost of drug discovery.”

In March, Ms. Gupta took part in the Intel Science Talent Search, a competition she describes as “a prestigious high school science competition.” Beating out thousands of applicants, and 3,000 semi-finalists, Ms. Gupta was one of the 40 finalists chosen to visit Washington D.C. to not only compete and test their knowledge on their personal projects but also on science in general.

“So, I was then selected as the Medal of Distinction winner of Global Good,” said Ms. Gupta. “Then, I received a call about a week later inviting me to the White House Science Fair.”

On left is Seema Kumar, vice president or Enterprise Innovation and Global Health, J&J Innovation, Anvita Gupta in the middle and Dr. Lawrence Mahan, president of the Biotechnology Institute on right.

On left is Seema Kumar, vice president or Enterprise Innovation and Global Health, J&J Innovation, Anvita Gupta in the middle and Dr. Lawrence Mahan, president of the Biotechnology Institute on right.

The White House Science Fair features innovative projects, designs and experiments from students across America, according to its website whitehouse.gov/science-fair. This year’s fair included a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in the science, technology, engineering and math competitions and inspiring the next generation with their work, the website states.

While at the White House Science Fair in April, the president of the Biotechnology Institute, Dr. Lawrence Mahan, suggested Ms. Gupta apply for another science competition.

“He came up to me and said ‘oh, this project looks very good for our annual BioGENEius Challenge,’” said Ms. Gupta. “I actually didn’t know that much about it, but he really urged me to apply, so I sent in my poster and abstract research that I had worked on at Harvard Medical School and also in Arizona.”

Ms. Gupta went on to be chosen as one of eight winners of the BioGENEius at Large Competition, which is open to students nationally. From there, 28 national finalists, two finalists from Canada and two from Germany were invited to the international BioGENEius Challenge in Philadelphia in June.

“They chose 10 winners from the 28 national finalists, and then we went on to compete against the candidates from Canada and Germany,” said Ms. Gupta. “We were judged by industry professionals from pharmaceutical, industrial biotechnology and agricultural biotechnology.”

Ms. Gupta was selected as the top winner for the Global Healthcare Challenge in the International BioGENEius Challenge.

She plans on using her prize money for college when she attends Stanford University in the fall, majoring in computer science.

“I’m interested in starting my own business, really working towards combining computer science and biotechnology and working at the edge of both fields,” said Ms. Gupta.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be contacted at 623-210-6691, via e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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