Canadian teen honored for disease research

May 13, 2011 at 5:07 PM

TORONTO, May 13 (UPI) -- A Canadian teenager using a supercomputer to find a new drug combination that shows potential in cystic fibrosis treatment has been honored, officials say.

Marshall Zhang, 16, an 11th-grade student at Toronto's Bayview Secondary School, won first place in the 2011 Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge, a contest for students conducting their own research projects with the help of mentors, LiveScience.com reported Thursday.

Cystic fibrosis is a potentially fatal condition caused by a genetic mutation that causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs and elsewhere, often killing its victims in their teens.

Zhang used a Canadian supercomputing network to model how two promising new compounds acted against the defective protein that causes the condition.

When Zhang's results were tested with living cells, the results were better than he expected, he said.

"They actually worked together in creating an effect that was greater than the sum of its parts," Zhang told LiveScience.

Zhang will move on to compete against U.S. and Australian contestants at the International BioGENEius Challenge in Washington June 27.

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