President Obama Tours the 2014 White House Science Fair
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President Obama Tours the 2014 White House Science Fair

The President: Hello
Science Fair participants. Where are they? Oh, you’re first. (laughter) The President: It’s
kind of intimidating. Look at all these pictures. Alana Simon: Hello. The President: How are you? Alana Simon: Great, how are you? The President: Good to see you. Alana Simon: Good
to see you, too. The President: Well
we’re so proud of you. Alana Simon: Thank you. The President: I was
reading up on you. You’ve done great stuff. Alana Simon: Thank you
very much, Mr. President. The President: All right. So, the, I don’t know if folks
are aware of this story, this young lady is remarkable. They’re all remarkable, but
I think it’s appropriate we start right here. Tell everybody your name. Alana Simon: Hi,
I’m Alana Simon. The President: Alana Simon. And Alana, here is a picture
of you when you got sick. So, what happened? Alana Simon: Well, when
I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare
form of pediatric liver cancer, called fibrolamellar
hepatocellular carcinoma. The President: Wow — Alana Simon: That’s — The President: That’s so
impressive that you can say it. Alana Simon: Years of practice. The President: Yeah. Alana Simon: And not many people
know much about the disease. No one understood
it at the time. And that was pretty scary. But I was lucky in that they
caught it early enough. So through, you know, a liver
surgery in which they resected most of my liver, they were able
to get the entire tumor out. And I’ve been completely ever
since, which is incredible. The President: But
you look great. Alana Simon: Thank
you very much. The President: Yeah. Alana Simon: So then, a
couple of years later, I had this internship
at Cancer Research Lab, and I learned about this thing
called genetic sequencing — The President: (affirmative) Alana Simon: Where you look through someone’s DNA, which is the stuff that
codes for, you know, your entire body. And you’ll get people’s normal
cells and their tumor cells, and you try to figure out
what the difference is, what’s causing this cancer. The President: Right. Alana Simon: And I realized
that would be perfect for fibrolamellar, because
you don’t have to have some kind of base
understanding of the disease. And as a pediatric cancer,
it seemed to be perfect for, you know, looking at your DNA to
find the (inaudible) mutations The President: Right. Alana Simon: Because,
since you’re younger, you’ll have less
random mutations. The President: Right. Alana Simon: So, I talked to
my surgeon actually, who had, you know, cured me. And he mentored me, and he
actually got a lot of the samples that I used, and he
helped me start this process, where I was doing genetic
sequencing on the kind of cancer I had had. And what we ended up finding
is this one common mutation in every single case
that we’ve looked at, that seems to be causing
this disease — The President: Right. Alana Simon: So, if you’ll
get to use some nice swim noodle chromosomes — The President:
These are, right. Alana Simon: So, chromosomes
are where you have all of your DNA stored, which
has your genes that it codes for, you know, everything. And so here, in blue, I
have one gene, and in green, I have another. And what happens in
fibrolamellar patients, here is a normal
person’s chromosome — The President: Right. Alana Simon: And here is
a person with cancer. And so, yeah, you can see,
there’s this one deletion. So if you look at this, this
middle part gets deleted — The President: Right. Alana Simon: Its noodles,
these two genes fused together. And you get this weird chimera
gene, like chimera is, you know, from Greek mythology, you have
the head of one create and the body of another. So — The President: I remember. Alana Simon: You have
the head of one gene, and the body of another. And so, that’s what happened in
these fibrolamellar patients. And when these two genes
are fused together, this weird new chimera protein
is what then goes into and turns on all these other genes
and actually causes this cancer in patients. And so now that we know this,
we can create a blood test to actually test people,
diagnose them early — The President: So we can catch it even quicker — Alana Simon: Exactly. The President: Because we know
exactly what we’re looking for? Alana Simon: Precisely. The President: And you
then publish this in Science Magazine — Alana Simon: Yes. The President: And received Young Champion of Cancer
Research Award — Alana Simon: Yeah. The President: From the
American Cancer Society. Alana Simon: Yes,
it’s incredible. The President: We’re
so proud of you. Alana Simon: Thank you. The President: Can I just say
that I did not do it at 12, 13, or 18? And it’s just inspiring, and
your parents must be (inaudible) they see you, they do. I’m sure they know
today as well. So, this is just a sampler
of the kind of outstanding young talent that we’ve
got, all right? Let’s, I’ve got to get a
good picture of people. This is my title, all right. (Laughter.) The President: Are you
getting the chromosomes in the background? Peyton Robertson: Yes. The President: All right. (Laughter.) The President: All right, so where are you
going to school? Alana Simon: I’m going
to Harvard next fall. The President: Yeah? Are you excited about that? What are you going to –? Alana Simon: Yeah,
I’m so excited. I’m actually working on the lab,
going to start with the blood test and what is real. The President: Yeah. Are you interested in the
research side or are you thinking you might actually
want to go to medical school? Alana Simon: I have no idea. I think I’m going
to pursue research, computer science is what allowed
me to do all of this research. So I’m definitely planning on
studying computer science. But I’ll find some way to
apply that to research or — The President: Good. Alana Simon:
Whatever I choose. The President: Well,
we’re very proud of you. Give me a hug. Alana Simon: Thank
you very much. The President: You’re
just doing great. Alana Simon: Thank you. The President: Unbelievable,
that’s wonderful. How are you doing? Peyton Robertson:
I’m good, thank you. How are you? The President: I’m doing good. I can tell you’re
a high-power guy. What’s your name? Peyton Robertson: I’m
Peyton, P-E-Y-T-O-N. The President: Great to see you. And where are you from, Peyton? Peyton Robertson: I’m from
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The President: Fort
Lauderdale, Florida. So what have we got here? What is all this? Peyton Robertson: So I actually have two (inaudible) — The President: You have two? One was not enough? You decided you had to have two? Peyton Robertson: I don’t know. They asked me to bring two. The President: All right. Peyton Robertson: So, here
(inaudible) retractable training wheels that allows the
item to adjust the height of the training wheels while
actually riding a bike. So, when you’re feeling
confident — The President: Yeah. Peyton Robertson: –You just
twist the retraction handle. The President:
Aha, that’s smart. Peyton Robertson: And
the wheels can come up. The President: So
you can basically, rather than get your
screwdriver and you’re like not screwing everything — Peyton
Robertson: There you go. The President: — And then you
realize I’m still kind of of wobbly, and then
you’ve got to put them back on, here, you can just kind of
see, how are you feeling during the course of the thing — Peyton Robertson: But, in any
case, if you want, if you feel like you’re about to fall — The President: Yeah. Peyton Robertson: –And lose
your balance — The President: Right away. Peyton Robertson: — It
comes right back down. And at any position,
it locks in place. So even if you start
to lose your balance, it will still give you enough
time to be able to twist back to the starting position. The President: I could
still use this now. Do you have an adult version, or
is it only on smaller breaks? Peyton Robertson: Well, I’m
watching over the kid’s bike manufacturer right now to
help get it on the market, but I’m sure this will be
applied to — The President: I think that’s probably right. (laughter) The President:
Have you patented this? Peyton Robertson: I have a
patent pending — The President: Yeah. Peyton Robertson: — On
both of these actually. The President: Okay, well let’s
hear about the other one before we get into the patient issue. All right, so what’s the second
project you’ve got here? Peyton Robertson: So here, I
redesigned the sanal sandbag, placing the traditional
sand with polymer and salt. You know, living in Florida, I
know how devastating hurricanes and saltwater flooding can
be — The President: Right. Peyton Robertson: — You know,
we just had Hurricane Sandy in the news, and I survived
through Hurricane Wilma. I was four (inaudible)
with my mom, which was such a
scary experience. The President: I can imagine. Peyton Robertson: Yeah. The President: You still
remember that, huh? Peyton Robertson: Oh,
I do, many parts of it. The President: How
old are you now? Peyton Robertson: I’m 12. The President: Okay, all right. Peyton Robertson:
And, you know, today, while sandbags are the most common method of federal
protection — The
President: Right. Peyton Robertson:
–They can be heavy, and difficult to transport. The President: Yes, I remember,
because that — Peyton Robertson: Like at
Santa Costa beach, yeah. The President: Yeah, yeah, I
remember that sometimes with hurricanes, and yeah. Peyton Robertson: And then
also, leave gaps in between the individual bags
when you stack them. The President: They don’t
compress together, right? Peyton Robertson: So I wanted to
redesign the sanal sandbag by replacing this thing
with powder and salt. So, when dry, my bags
are really like, wait, they only weigh four
pounds. But then when you add
water, it expands. And it becomes heavy,
and it becomes 30 pounds, and offers protection
against saltwater flooding. The President: So if I know
that the flood’s coming, I can pack these up, we can
deliver them to the site much easier, you can fit more
bags in there, right? And you don’t even have to add
water because by definition, the water’s coming
in to hit the bay? Peyton Robertson: Well,
yes, you can do that. That is definitely a way. If, before the flood, if
you want to make sure, you can also hose it down — The President: You can just hose it down. Peyton Robertson: That’s
another way you would want to do it. And the other advantage is if
you stack them when the light weight, you don’t have to
carry all these heavy bags, but also, the polymer will expand. It’ll fill in the gaps in
between the individual bags while still being bonded by
these interlocking (inaudible) systems. So it’ll still stick together,
and you won’t have the gaps in between in between
the individual bags, you have the
traditional sandbags. The President:
Okay, time out here. Now, the, where did you get the
idea of, this one I kind of get, right? Because, basically, you skinned
your knee and you thought, you know, we should have a
better design on this thing. Peyton Robertson: Yeah, this is
actually when my sister first learned how to ride a bike. The President: Yeah, all right. Peyton Robertson: Yeah. The President: So how did you
get the idea for the whole polymer thing, though? Peyton Robertson:
Well, you know, I guess I thought about
this living in Florida. The President: Right. Peyton Robertson: But for, the
idea of polymer, you know, for another idea that
I had had earlier, I’ve got to learn a little bit
about polymer from a university that I went to,
University of Mississippi, and I learned a little bit about polymers, and when — The President: How old were you
when you went to the University of Mississippi? Peyton Robertson: I
was about eight or so. The President: Is that right? Peyton Robertson: Yeah, I
had — The President: Yeah. (Laughter.) Peyton
Robertson: — So, and, so, polymers to me are
found everywhere. They’re founded on skin tissues,
they’re founded in plants. But the type of polymer that I
used here is super absorbent polymer, which takes on water
and it expands when wet. So, as you see here, this is
what a polymer looks like when it’s all colored up. But then, when you add water, it
straightens out through hydrogen bonding, and expands like this. Here, you want to try? The President: I do. (laughter) The President: I
actually have one of these. Peyton Robertson: Oh, you do? Yes — The President:
They’re very cool. I love them. Peyton Robertson: Yeah, just
try to poke them and spear them. The President: Sometimes I
just stare at them in space. Peyton Robertson: I know. The President: Sometimes
in the Oval Office, I just look at one of
these, (inaudible). The, well, so, you have a patent
pending on this as well, huh? Peyton Robertson: I do. And, you know, but the
idea of polymer has, and the sandbag has
been around for a while. People have used them in
diapers and in the snow, and other (inaudible) bags. And it takes on water
and expands when wet. The President: Oh, I see. You’ve got, you
can show us here. Peyton Robertson:
As you can see here, I’ve been doing these little
mini test tubes for all the other (inaudible)
the big one for you. The President: Okay. Let’s see there Peyton Robertson: Watch what’s happened. The President: Look at that. Peyton Robertson: Yeah. The President: Now this isn’t
going to spill over, is it? Peyton Robertson: No, it’s not The President: This is not the blob, is it? Peyton Robertson: No,
it’s not going to. The President: It’s not going
to eat up the White House? Peyton Robertson: I hope not. The President: There you go. Peyton Robertson: But, the key
to my design is the addition of salt. As you can see here, seawater
has a higher salt content. It is therefore denser and
heavier than tap water. So as you can see here, this
seawater sits below the dyed tap water, because it has a higher
salt content and is therefore denser. And I can show you here. What’s your favorite color? Pick one. The President: Blue. Peyton Robertson: All
right, I did blue. The President: Okay, red. Peyton Robertson: Okay. The President: All right. It’s not really my
favorite, but that’s okay. I’m just kidding. Peyton Robertson: So, so if you The President: This guy. (laughter) Peyton Robertson:
–If you pour the sand without working the surface tension The President: Yeah. Peyton Robertson: You can get
this dyed tap water to sit on top, just like this. The President:
Just as it is here? Peyton Robertson:
Just as it is here. The President: Right. Peyton Robertson: Perfect. The President: Okay. Peyton Robertson: And, this
is important to my sandbag, because I didn’t want my bags
to float away during the flood. Obviously, that would be bad. The President: Right. Peyton Robertson: So, what I did
was I added salt so the water that came into the bag would
be heavier and denser than the approaching seawater, so
therefore would sink below the approaching seawater so my
bags wouldn’t float away during the floor. The President: Well, this
is all remarkable stuff. Now, the, so you’re 12. What grade are you in? Peyton Robertson:
I’m in sixth grade. The President: You’re
technically in sixth grade, but are you, you’re thinking you
might try to finish high school a little quicker and get
to university a little faster, or you want to just kind
of take your time and — ? Peyton Robertson: Yeah,
you know, actually, the program that I’m doing now,
it allows me to accelerate in certain areas. The President: Ah — Peyton Robertson: So, I’m taking
like higher-level math and science classes, I’m taking grade-level English and other
stuff. The President: That makes
perfect sense — Peyton Robertson: So it’s
definitely (inaudible). The President: Well, come on,
let’s take a good picture. Come on. Peyton Robertson: Okay. The President: Peyton, where you
at, oh, here we are. All right. Make sure you’ve got,
the polymer’s in here. Peyton Robertson: Oh yeah. The President: So,
now, one last question. Where do I buy stocking meat? Huh? Let’s just invest in this guy,
and then we’ll see, like, 20 years from now,
we’ll be rich. I was not like this. Really proud of you — Peyton
Robertson: Thank you so much. The President: And you make
a great presentation also. Peyton Robertson: Thank you. The President: You have great
confidence and clarity in Peyton Robertson: Thank you. The President: How you’re
describing what you do. Peyton Robertson:
Thank you so much. The President: That’s wonderful. How are you? Deidre Carrillo: I’m
good, how are you? The President: What’s your name? Deidre Carrillo: Deidre Carrillo. The President: Good to see you. The, now, (inaudible)? Deidre Carrillo: Deidra. The President: Deardra? Deidre Carrillo: Deidra. The President: Deidra? Deidre Carrillo: Yes. The President: Okay, I got it. Now, this looks like
an electric go-cart. Is that what it is? Deidre Carrillo: That’s
basically what it is. The President: That’s
basically what it is? Deidre Carrillo: Yes. The President: And
where are you from? Deidre Carrillo: I’m
from San Antonio, Texas. The President: Okay. And so, tell me about how you
got involved in this project. Deidre Carrillo: Well,
that’s a funny story. I was the shortest in my senior
class — The President: Yeah. Deidre Carrillo: And — The
President: I can’t believe that. Female Speaker: I was. And they said you would
fit perfectly in this car. So, that’s how it started. And I’ve been doing
this for three years. The President: The, so,
describe to me this vehicle. And the goal here is to, is
the goal to have, you know, in these contests, the
fastest electric car, or the one that can travel
the furthest, or both? Deidre Carrillo: It’s more about
going the furthest and being smart on your
battery management. That is what the competition
is basically about. The President: So it’s
like an efficency? Deidre Carrillo: Yes. The President: Right? The goal is how efficent is it
relative to the amount of power that’s being generated
— Deidre Carrillo: Yes. The President: Electrically. Okay. The, well, I clearly
cannot fit in this. Are you able to fit in it? Deidre Carrillo: Yes, I’m
actually able to fit in it. The President: Well, would you
like to display it or do you think you want to look cool and
you just kind of want to –? Female Speaker: I
can, yes, definitely. The President: (inaudible) Deidre Carrillo: I’ll have to get in. The President: Yeah, of course. So, how fast does this thing go? That’s a pretty serious
seatbelt by the way. That’s the same one that
we have on Black Hawks, Black Hawk helicopters. Deidre Carrillo: Yes. A big guideline is safety, so
— The President: Of course. Deidre Carrillo: I do wear
motorcycle helmets — The President: Right. Deidre Carrillo: –And I am
very well taken care of. The President: I’ll bet. All right. How big was the team that
helped you design the car? Deidre Carrillo: We
started in a team of six, and now we’re a group of 14. The President: Okay. You fit like a glove. Female Speaker: Yes. The President: And what’s
that little panel there? What is that? Is that the control? Deidre Carrillo: This tells me
what’s (inaudible) I would, during competition, I
am focusing on going in circles and, well, we were
supposed to do tonometry. Tonometry would’ve
helped a huge amount. The President: (affirmative) Female Speaker: But this tells
me how many volts im running, how many amps and I
communicate that to my electrical chief, and he
told me how fast to go to slow down. The President: So he’s
going to give you calculations based on
optimizing the consistency of the entire process. And how fast is – are
you typically going when you’re in one of
these contests? Deidre Carrillo: Ah the
fastest — the constant that we want is 35. The President:
35 miles an hour? Deidre Carrillo: 35. The President:
That’s pretty fast? Deidre Carrillo: Yes, the
fastest was actually 38. The President: I got you. So what are you doing now,
now that you’ve done such an outstanding job, are
you interested in an engineer? Did this prompt a
long term interest? Deidre Carrillo: Well, my
job is actually public relations, along with
driver, so I’m actually thinking of pursing public
relations, and part time driver. The President: And
part time driver. Well, congratulations. Alright, come on over
here, let’s get a good picture. Look at all these
big trophies. These trophies are
bigger than you. Deidre Carrillo: Yes. (laughter) scoot over so we can see them.
The President:
Alright, There we go. Congratulations. Deidre Carrillo:
Thank you. The President: What’s
going on guys? What’s your name? Daisjaughn Bass:
Daisjaughn. The President: Daisjaughn. Good to see you. Gerry McManus: Gerry. The President: Gerry. Good to see you.
Brooke Bohn: Brooke. The President:
Good to see you. Now, where are
you guys from? Daisjaughn Bass:
Hudson, Massachusetts. The President: And what
grades are you in? Daisjaughn Bass: 8th. The President: 8th grade. So what do we got here? Daisjaughn Bass:
It’s a catapult. The President:
It’s a catapult. Daisjaughn Bass: Yep. The President: Alright, so
lets – I assume we get to see it work, right? Daisjaughn Bass: Yeah. The President: Alright. Before I see it work, tell
me has this been an ongoing project of the school? I mean, each year, is
there sort of a catapult contest, or a robot
building contest? Or is this something
that kind of happened on something? Daisjaughn Bass: After
school, we’re part of Raytheon
at the Boys and Girls club, so we just — The President: So Raytheon
is a sponsor at the Boys and Girls club? Brooke Bohn: Yes, well we
were part of it last year. Daisjaughn Bass: We came
in second out of 45 teams.
The President: I see. The President: Alright. That’s excellent, and what
– how did you get the idea of catapult, or was
everyone doing it together? Daisjaughn Bass: So we had
a lot of topics to choose form since we all play
basketball mostly. The President: You do. Yeah. Daisjaughn Bass: So we
choose basketball, and we went with the angle and
the trajectory to making a three pointer. The President: Yeah,
okay, So that’s — did you construct this whole
catapult yourself? Daisjaughn Bass: Yeah. And our Boys and Girls
Club Director Gary helped us make it. The President: Where
did you get this guy? Daisjaughn Bass: Well, we
got it, and we made it. The President: This is a
pretty serious looking guy. Alright, you want to
show me how it works? Now, how fast does
this thing go? Is it going to
break anything? Daisjaughn Bass: No. The President: Alright,
can I stand by here just in case? Alright, now I want
you to protect me. (laughter). Okay, I’m going to hide
behind you, because I don’t want to
– Oh, okay, I think — that I can handle. Alright, let’s
try that again. I just want to make – last
time I was here, there was a guy that was
shooting marshmallows out of a rifle, and like it was
– this modified vaccuum cube, you guys
remember that? Audience: Yes. The President: That
thing went fast. That thing went — it went right up there, didn’t it? The marshmallow might still be there. Alright, lets try it out. Come on. Oh, that was a little low. Let’s try it again. Let’s try it again. That was a perfect pass. See. The – well
congratulations, if this prompted an interesting,
if any of you want to be engineers, or designers,
or work on technology, stuff like that? Daisjaughn Bass:
No, not really. I want to go to college
for basketball. The President: Oh, you
want to be a basketball player. Yeah, everybody wants to
be a basketball player, I understand, until
they get into college. How tall is your
dad and mom? Daisjaughn Bass:
Not that tall. (laughter) The President: Well, I just
want to make that point — keep up with your science homework, alright. Pete, where are you? Look at this
guy right here. Alright, we’re
proud of you guys. Daisjaughn
Bass: Thank you. The President: Alright,
you take care of yourself. The President: All right,
what do we got here young people? These are my Chicago
homies right here — (laughter) The President: –Right? Where do you guys
go to school? John Moore: I go
to Lincoln Park. The President:
Lincoln Park. Lydia Wolfe: I go to
Castle System High School. The President: It is great
to see you, both excellent schools, and
what’s your name? John Moore: JT. The President: JT? Lydia Wolfe: Lydia. The President:
Lydia, all right. So you guys start giving
the robots, is that right? John Moore: Yeah. The President: How did you
first become interested in robots? John Moore: Well, in
Chicago, there is, or there weren’t very many
opportunities for robots. So what my mom did was she
went out and said that she would bring Mickey
into Chicago. So now we’ve created over
half the teams of Chicago, and — The President: So your
mom basically started the whole robot trend? John Moore: Yeah. The President: I like
that (inaudible). John Moore: (inaudible)
Chicago, and that’s how more people do
it rather than — The President:
That’s great. The, and so, so, do you
have a bunch of different robotics teams
in Chicago — John Moore: Yes. The President: Does
Hails Franciscan have one team, and then Wayne has a
different one, or do you guys all come from
different schools and sort of form like a club? Lydia Wolfe: We all come
from different schools. The President: Uh-huh. Lydia Wolfe: My team this
year combined with Chicago NATS since we were
having trouble. The President:
Uh-huh, excellent. All right, so, it looks
like you guys have been doing pretty good. What do we have here? Is this an example of one
of our, one of your, some of your handiwork here? John Moore: Yep. This is our FRC robot
from this year — The President: Uh-huh. John Moore: We played
a game sort of like lacrosse, where they had a twoflated ball that it picked up. The President: Right. John Moore: So, this
arm comes down — The President: Yeah. John Moore: And then the
rollers suck it up, and then it brings it back. And then we have, over
here that we use to kick, kick the ball. The President:
Oh, I see, okay. Now, this one, we’re
not modeling in here, I gather. John Moore: We can show
the arm going down with the wheels. The President: Yeah,
but no actual ball? John Moore: Yeah. The President: Because
we’ve hit one of these guys, yeah. (laughter) The President:
I like them. Actually, this is a
pretty good group. There are some where I
wouldn’t have minded. (laughter) The President: But I
don’t see them here. All right, let’s see. All right. John Moore: All
right, so — The President: All good? John Moore: There’s two
different driver’s forks. The President: Uh-huh. John Moore: There is the
part that has the arm going up and down. The President: Right. John Moore: And then
there’s the part that controls the other part. The President: Got it. And so these are all
manually controlled? John Moore: Yep. The game is broken
up into two parts. There’s one part where the
robot drives by itself The President: Right. John Moore: For 30
seconds, and then there’s two minutes where the
robot is driven against five other robots on the
field, so a three-on-three game. The President: That
sounds pretty fun, yeah. So, how long did it take
you to construct this particular robot? John Moore: Six weeks. The President: Six weeks? John Moore: Mm-hmm, six
weeks to design and build, and everybody’s given the
challenge at the same time. The President:
Outstanding. Well, I’m so
proud of you guys. Come on, let’s take a
good picture next to your robot. Yeah, you come over here. You get over here, and
Pete, make sure the robot’s in the picture. Got it. Fantastic. All right, the, so has
this spurred interest in you wanting to stay in
engineering, technology, things like that? John Moore: Before joining
this, I didn’t know that there were so many
engineer jobs out there — The President: Absolutely. John Moore: But now that
I know that, The President: Yeah. Well, you’re going to be
one of those engineers. You too, especially we
need young women and engineering in
sciences, all right? Looking forward to seeing
you guys do great things. I’m proud of you. Tell everybody back
home I said hi. John Moore: All
right, thank you. The President: All right? John Moore: Thank you. The President:
How are you, sir? Eric Chen: I’m good. How are you? The President:
What’s your name? Eric Chen: I’m Eric. The President: Good
to see you, Eric. Where are you from? Eric Chen: Good to see
you, I’m from San Diego. The President: San Diego? So what year are
you in school now? Eric Chen: I’m
a senior now. The President:
You’re a senior? Do you know what you’re
going to be doing next year? Eric Chen: I’ll be
going to Harvard. The President:
I bet you are. (laughter) The President: So
what do we got here? Eric Chen: Yeah, so, in
summary, what I was able to do was use computers to
speed up the discovery of new medicine for the flu. And the flu right now is
a really big threat where you have strains
like H5N1, H7N9 — The President: I’ve spent
a lot of time worrying about the possibility
of pandemic, right? Eric Chen: Yeah, and
they’re only one mutation away from possibly
causing a pandemic. The President: Right. Eric Chen: And the problem
is we have no really effective
treatments for it. The flu vaccine, so like
flu shots, they take several months to prepare. And that’s a time where
over millions of people could be dying — The President: Right. Eric Chen: And they
create antiviral drugs, so so like a pill you take, and
get better from the flu, they’re losing their
effectiveness because of resistance, restraints. The President: Right. Eric Chen: And so there’s
this urgent need for a new flu medicine to
kind of hold back the pandemic wave while vaccines
are being developed. The President: Right. Eric Chen: And so, right
now, drug companies are still kind of in that
industrial era of drug discovery, where they
found, hey, we can make robots do everything. So they make robots test
millions and millions of chemicals, they just find a few that might become real drugs. The President: But that’s
not very efficient. Eric Chen:
Exactly, and so — The President: It’s sort
of trial by error as opposed to — Eric Chen: Exactly, it’s
like kind of brute force rather than
reasoning, by logic. The President: Right. Eric Chen: What I’ve
been able to do is use computers to first
virtually go through huge chemical libraries that
predict which ones would be most likely to work,
and then followed by only testing
those, that small fraction that’s most likely to work. The President: Right. Eric Chen: And so, I’ve
been able to take a compound library of almost
half a million chemicals, and then using computer
modeling, isolating the top 237. The President: And what is
allowing you to, what are the factors that allow
you to win over this now? What is it that you can
anticipate, would make a possible vaccine
more effective? Eric Chen: Right, so it’s
actually not a flu shot. It would actually
be a drug, so — The President: I see. Eric Chen: It would be
like, yeah, it’s curative curative
rather than preventative — The President: Okay,
so rather than the traditional giving you a
little bit of fluid to boost your immunity
to the flu — Eric Chen: It’s actually
giving you a chemical The President: A
chemical cure. Eric Chen: Right. The President:
That’s fascinating. Eric Chen: Yeah. And one of the great
advantages to one of the target sites using
to make these chemicals for is that it’s highly
conservative amounts of (inaudible), being that
it could potentially work against any food string,
even if you have no idea where it’s coming from. And so, basically, one of
the ways that I’m looking at kind of finding
these chemicals that work is actually kind of taking
little, how it works is you’re targeting a
protein of the flu virus. And, so, this is actually
a printed structure of one of the flu protein (inaudible) targeted — The President: This thing
was in my nose just about three weeks ago. (laughter) It lasted forever,
couldn’t get rid of it. Not really, I’m
just joking. (laughter) All right, so this is a 3D
model of a nasty flu bug right there. Eric Chen: Right. And how, and what we do is
we, or I try to find these little kind of chemicals
like that, that kind of fit into this pocket right
here, and jam it and stop it from working. The President: Right. Eric Chen: And so, by
doing this, so how the computer does it is it
takes kind of the millions or the half a million
different kind of chemical structures, and
fits each one in. And then it ranks them
based on how well they fit. And so by doing that, if,
the ones that fit really well are kind of more predicted to — The President:
More likely to — Eric Chen: Exactly. The President: To work. The, now this is a pretty
significant new direction in terms of
developing a flu drug. And, you’re only
in high school. So, the question is, has
this approach gained sort of converts among the drug
companies where they say to themselves, you know
what, actually this is pretty promising — Eric Chen: Right, well — The President: Or are
you still, because of its infancy, they don’t know
how smart you are, it’ll take them a while
to figure that out? Eric Chen: Well research
groups have started using these kind of new and
innovative tools for kind of, yeah, rational
drug discovery. The President: Right. Eric Chen: And the
problem, well drug companies, they’re
huge, and because of that — The President:
There you go. Eric Chen: They’re kind
of sluggish to responding to this kind
of innovation. And so one big thing
is actually kind of convincing them to kind of
take up these different tools in order to make it
more, much more efficient process. The President: Well, part
of the reason it’s so important, as you know,
is because of the economics of producing flu vaccines,
is, it’s not a big moneymaker
for the drug companies. Eric Chen: Right. The President: If we can
come up with computer models that
narrow the RMB — Eric Chen: Right, by
making it much cheaper, you can actually — The President: You can
actually start producing them and adapting
them to — Eric Chen: Right, and
making them cheaper for the people — The President: That’s
exactly right. This is really important. This could end up being
the start of saving millions of lives, huh? Eric Chen: Hopefully. The President: That’s, you
know, the, now, do you also like, are you like a
champion lacrosse player and –? Eric Chen: No,
I fence, though. The President: You fence? (laughter) The President: All right,
I’m such an underachiever. (laughter) The President: You’re
going to do great. Eric Chen: Thank you. The President: I’ll be
on the lookout for this, because we’re spending a
lot of time, you know, trying to puzzle
this out, so — Eric Chen: All right. The President: All right?

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