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Teen scientists of Regeneron Talent Search honored

March 15, 2017

Society for Science & the Public and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN) announced that Indrani Das, 17, of Oradell, New Jersey, won the top award in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition. Forty finalists, including Indrani, were honored tonight at the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search Awards Gala for their research projects demonstrating exceptional scientific and mathematical ability, taking home more than $1.8 million in awards provided by Regeneron.

Indrani Das, 17, of Oradell, New Jersey, won the top award of $250,000 for her study of a possible approach to treating the death of neurons due to brain injury or neurodegenerative disease. A contributor to neuron death is astrogliosis, a condition that occurs when cells called astrocytes react to injury by growing, dividing and reducing their uptake of glutamate, which in excess is toxic to neurons. In a laboratory model, she showed that exosomes isolated from astrocytes transfected with microRNA-124a both improved astrocyte uptake of glutamate and increased neuron survival. Indrani mentors younger researchers and tutors math in addition to playing the piccolo trumpet in a four-person jazz ensemble.

Second place honors and $175,000 went to Aaron Yeiser, 18, of Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, for his development of a new mathematical method for solving partial differential equations on complicated geometries. Partial differential equations are ubiquitous in science and engineering and are currently solved using computers. He developed a more efficient way to do this and applied it to the challenging field of computational fluid dynamics. Aaron is a distance runner who competes in cross country and track. During the summer, he teaches sailing in Maine.

Third place honors and $150,000 went to Arjun Ramani, 18, of West Lafayette, Indiana, for blending the mathematical field of graph theory with computer programming to answer questions about networks. Typically, these questions require statistical comparisons to hundreds or thousands of random graphs, a process that can take a relatively long time. He developed an algorithm that greatly accelerated the process by reducing the time required to generate these graphs. Arjun is an award-winning debater and accomplished tennis player and coach, and also volunteers at a local science museum.

This year, Regeneron became only the third sponsor of the Science Talent Search, following previous sponsors Westinghouse and Intel. As part of its 10-year, $100 million commitment, Regeneron significantly increased awards to better reward the nation’s brightest young scientists and encourage their continued pursuit of scientific innovation. In total, this year’s finalists received over $1.8 million in awards provided by Regeneron, which distributed $3.1 million in awards overall to Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 finalists, scholars and their schools. Regeneron is also supporting efforts to increase nationwide student and school participation in the Science Talent Search.

“Now more than ever, we need our nation’s best and brightest young minds to pursue their interest in science and use their talents to solve our world’s most intractable problems,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News. “I congratulate our finalists, who are all poised to become our future scientific leaders.” Society for Science & the Public has organized and produced the Science Talent Search since it was founded in 1942.

“Congratulations to the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 top winners,” said George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron. “My experience as a Science Talent Search winner led me to embark on a career in science, and I hope it will inspire these exceptional young scientists to become the next generation of innovators that will improve the world and solve some of our most pressing challenges as a society.”

Other top honors from the competition include:

Fourth Place: Byron Xu, 17, of Sugar Land, Texas, received a $100,000 award for his examination of marine seismic data – the reflections of sound waves – with the goal of calculating ocean water temperatures in more detail than current techniques allow.

Fifth Place: Archana Verma, 17, of Jericho, New York, received a $90,000 award for her study of the molecular orbital energy dynamics of dyes, which may someday result in windows that produce solar energy.

Sixth Place: Laura Pierson, 17, of Oakland, California, received an $80,000 award for her use of theoretical algebra to study the representation theory of mathematically symmetric groups.

Seventh Place: Prathik Naidu, 18, of Potomac Falls, Virginia, received a $70,000 award for his creation of a new machine learning software to study 3-D interactions of the human genome in cancer.

Eighth Place: Ethan Novek, 18, of Greenwich, Connecticut, received a $60,000 award for his development of a new carbon capture process powered entirely by abundant low-temperature waste heat.

Ninth Place: Vrinda Madan, 17, of Orlando, Florida, received a $50,000 award for her study of 24 potential compounds for the treatment of malaria, in which she found two potential candidates that appear to target the disease-causing organism in a novel way and may warrant further study.

Tenth Place: Stefan Wan, 17, of Wellington, Florida, received a $40,000 award for his development of a new material to remove phosphate from wastewater and storm runoff and then recycle it to enrich farm soil.

The remaining 30 finalists each received $25,000.

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