d Immanuel Lutheran alum Hiren Parekh made the most of his opportunity at this year’s Regional Science Fair. Parekh earned the top award, along with Mallorie Coffee and Eli Jones of Jackson, which allows him to move on to the Regeneron International Fair in May.
Parekh said qualifying for the international fair was a dream come true.
“It’s something that I’ve been working toward for a while now,” Parekh said.” It’s an honor to be able to take my research to an international level and sharing it with others, while also learning something from other people.”
Parekh’s project involves developing a way to synthesize the molecule Pannokin D. The molecule is currently only found in nature, but was proven in 2014 to have anti-cancer properties against the cell that cause stomach cancer.
“No one has developed a way to make it before and this molecule can help with treating stomach cancer,” Parekh said. “Right now, doctors are having a difficult time treating stomach cancer because there are some ineffective methods being used. There is a necessity for it and I want to make it accessible to doctors, but you can’t go out to some rainforest and find it in a plant. That’s the reasoning behind synthesizing it, or creating it from scratch.”
Parekh’s process to create this molecule has includes two phases, the first of which was a theoretical planning phase.
“Since no one has made this molecule before, what I have to do is make a blueprint or recipe to create it,” Parekh said. “So I’ve devised a seven-step plan that focuses on developing this molecule from a very basic starting material.”
Parekh has completed two steps of the process which took him from late January to early March to complete. His sophomore project for the Regional Science Fair, got him interested to taking it a step farther.
“Last year my project was testing natural products against different bacterial strands,” Parekh said. “I realized that those products have promising potential for helping cure a wide variety of different diseases. I got interested in studying organic chemistry because of that.”
Parekh has spent a lot of time outside of class to learn more about organic chemistry, including auditing a class from Southeast Missouri State University Assistant Professor Sajan Silwal.
Parekh hopes to complete one or two more steps before the international fair. He added that he will also research if there is any way to make his synthesis more cost efficient for mass production. Parekh hopes to finish the full seven steps by August.
Along with qualifying for the internation al fair, Parekh also won three awards for the project: the Office of Naval Research award, the Yale Science and Engineering Association award and the Regeneron Biomedical Science Award.
“I’m just trying to help the world the best way I can,” Parekh said. “I think if it works out this will go a long way in helping us treat this cancer and also other diseases.”