Sagar Aryal
Mar 28 th, 2015

Cell Biology-Genetics9 Comments

Teenager Discovered DNA Mutations That fights HIV And Meningitis and won a $150,000 prize

Teenager Discovered DNA Mutations That fights HIV And Meningitis and won a $150,000 prize

Andrew Jin, 17, of San Jose, California, won the First Place Medal of Distinction for Global Good  and $150,000 prize for creating a way to find helpful DNA mutations that can combat diseases like HIV, meningitis, schizophrenia and even the flu, which rewards finalists who demonstrate great scientific potential through their passion to make a difference.

Teenager Discovered DNA Mutations That fights HIV And Meningitis and won a $150,000 prize

Andrew developed a machine learning algorithm to identify adaptive mutations across the human genome. By analyzing massive public genomic datasets, his system discovered more than 100 adaptive mutations related to immune response, metabolism, brain development and schizophrenia in real DNA sequences. Understanding the genetic causes of these diseases is an important first step toward developing gene therapies or vaccines. Andrew is an accomplished pianist who has performed at Carnegie Hall.

Initially, Jin wanted to investigate how humans have evolved over the past 10,000 years. “I was doing it out of curiosity,” he says. “I started thinking about natural selection and evolution, and that we understand so much about its theory, but we know nothing about reality. I was curious about what mutations help us be sophisticated human beings.”

Jin decided to examine 179 human DNA sequences from different parts of the world. Each sequence consisted of 3 million base pairs of DNA–far too much to look at without help from an algorithm. So he set up a machine learning algorithm and found 130 potentially adaptive mutations, related to things like immune response and metabolism, that played a role in human evolution.

Working from a summer program at MIT, Jin refined his research and came up with a handful of mutations, including ones involved in resistance to meningitis and decreased susceptibility to viruses like influenza and HIV, that could potentially be used by pharmaceutical companies in new drug development.

There have been other natural-selection studies in the past looking for adaptive mutations, but Jin says that many of his findings are new. There’s still a long way to go before he starts chatting up Big Pharma, however. “There’s very, very strong evidence for these mutations playing a role in disease resistance, but in order to confirm, I would have to do biological experiments to study their protective mechanisms. That’s what I’m interested in doing now,” says Jin.

Once he gets to college (he’s not yet sure where that will be), Jin plans to pursue computer science or biology. But that’s not all he’s good at: The teen is a talented pianist who has played at Carnegie Hall. “I’m also an avid Boy Scout,” he says.

Teenager Discovered DNA Mutations That fights HIV And Meningitis and won a $150,000 prize

9 Comments on this article

  • Taniya Singh March 28, 2015

    I’m also intrested in searching works in field of science but unfortunately I have no guide lines for that and some other problems are also before me
    I’m a B. Sc. Student and extra skill food tech student

  • Heidi March 29, 2015

    Wow! Good for you Andrew Jin!!! I’ve been following human evolutionary genetics for a little while now, and having Crohn’s Disease myself was very intrugued by the discover that Neanderthal DNA and perhaps other unidentified archaic DNA remnants are associated with some of the (so-far) discovered genetic mutations in people with auto-immune diseases. Perhaps these genes adapted to play some kind of protective role in archaic humans, and continued to be selected to protect prehistoric human populations, but since the envioronmental “triggers” –whether chemical or bacteria — have so radically changed in modern times, finding immunological mutations that may explain why so many people do NOT acquire these disorders would bring the world many steps closer to understanding how to prevent the immune system from reacting to whatever triggers may cause some of these disorders. That you combined your skills in computer science and in genetics to explore immune adaptations that might offer some protection from these difficult to treat genetically associated diseases concusively illustrates that it will be interdisciplinary collaboration that will prove to be the “next generation” of scientific, medical and technological advancement. You are well deserving of the prize, and I’m sure there will be many, many more accolades for your work in the future. BRAVO!

  • hardeep gadhavi March 29, 2015

    Its very usefull to prevernt HIV which is gonna serculated by many reasons un th world i m microbiology student and i m interested in this type of invention specially for those diseases and virus which is known as uncurable

  • binay shrestha March 29, 2015

    This is really splendid a non-college goer advances in the field of science at such a pace. Congrats a lot!! It seems now that there should be convergence of many sciences to accomplish something

  • Bilal March 29, 2015

    @Taniya Singh: You can try to get a project assistant post at iisc.

  • unais mohammed March 30, 2015

    Interested in research

  • Bongani Jaceni July 7, 2015

    I’m happy for you, Andrew.
    I’m a med lab science student here in South Africa.
    You’ve done what most of us are dreaming of.
    If you are not a genius , you have ingenius ways of doing things.
    Come and join us and who knows what you come up with?

  • adam (@kickstalkers) July 30, 2015

    Thank to dr.dansam for his good work I really believe HIV have cure I was HIV positive over since 1year plus before I came across a comment dr.daansam that he have cure to any disease and virus but when I saw it i have it in mind that he can’t cure HIV I just decided to give a try I contacted him that night unfortunately to me he said yes but I don’t believe him I think it was a scam or some thing like that but I still hold on to see the work of dr.dansam if he is saying the true he ask for different things and some question about me I give him all the detail he needed and I wait to see his reply to my problem after all the things is done he ask me to go for check up I went for hiv test I cant believe I was negative the medical doctor was surprise and doctor even ask for dr.dansam email which i gave to him, he help people that contact him also he can still help you on your cure thanks
    dr.dansam for helping me for the cure at this young age if you need help contact him

  • BARBARA KELTNER December 3, 2015


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