Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease that causes your lungs to fill up with mucus, suffocating the afflicted. It affects 1 in 3000 people of European ancestry, causing their bodies to drown them to death. CF is one of the most feared genetic mutations for a very good reason.
The now 16 year old's effort in advancing the use of virtual docking to test drugs won him the 2011 Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge. Students entered develop research projects with the help of a mentor, in this case being Sick Kids Hospital researcher Dr. Christine Bear.
His winning combination was found with the help of the Canadian SCINET supercomputer and virtual drug docking, where he inserted two new compounds into a defective protein to see if something good would happen. Secondary tests on live cells confirmed that his combination could actually repair these proteins.
Mr. Zhang's experimental treatment is certainly not a cure for CF, but it gives hope to those for whom other treatments have failed. Marshall Zhang will spend this summer hanging out with Dr. Bear at Sick Kids to see what other treatments they can discover.
*this would be the part where I cry or similarly emote*