NEWS

Teen scientist Raphael Hotter wins prize for Ebola No More

06/01/2015 08:00 EDT | Updated 06/01/2016 05:59 EDT
Raphael Hotter, a teen scientist from Montreal with aspirations of becoming a neurosurgeon, has discovered a molecule that could potentially help stem the spread of Ebola.

The student at Herzliah High School in Côte-des-Neiges won a gold medal at a provincial science fair and a bronze medal at the national Canada-Wide Science Fair held in Fredericton, N.B. this month. Hotter will also represent Quebec at the MILSET Science Exhibition in Belgium in July.

"After doing a lot of research on the Ebola virus, I was able to find a link between the virus and a certain protein that's found in almost all human bodies called NPC1," Hotter explained.

"So, the Ebola virus needs this certain protein in order to enter to cytoplasm (cells), where it's able to replicate. The purpose of my project was to discover molecules that could potentially inhibit this protein in the form of what is called the 'receptor antagonist.'

"These molecules would be administered orally and would be synthesized potentially into a drug that would target this specific protein and block it, so the Ebola virus wouldn't be able to bind with this protein," he continued.

Hotter told CBC Daybreak on Monday morning that he was motivated by news reporting on the spread of Ebola in western Africa. 

"Over 11,000 deaths, very high mortality rate of more than 50 per cent. You have even five million children who were denied education because their schools closed down to the fear that the Ebola virus would continue spreading. So it really struck me as a project that I would really love to work on," Hotter said.

Help from McGill prof

He told Daybreak host Mike Finnerty that he was told that his initial plan — to develop a drug related to his discovery — was far too ambitious.

He said McGill professor Nicolas Moitessier and Dr. Jason Shahin helped him shape and narrow down the focus of his project proposal. 

Hotter's mother, Audrey Dayan, said she's unbelievably proud of her son — not only because of the medals and prizes he's won, but because of his persistence in finding university mentors after sending many emails asking for help that went unanswered.

"He was so determined," Dayan said.

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