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Indeever Madireddy

Indeever Madireddy

2022 Davidson Fellow
$10,000 Scholarship

Age: 17
Hometown: San Jose, CA

Science: “Stably Integrating CRISPR-Cas9 to Augment the Mammalian Immune System to Protect Against Viral Infections.”

About Indeever

I’m Indeever Madireddy, a rising senior at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley in San Jose, CA.

I am an avid fishkeeper and aquarist. I have over 100 fish in my home's indoor aquariums and outdoor ponds. Some of my favorite fish include my Senegal bichir and Benigoi koi. In my free time, I write on Quora to share my fishkeeping experience and give advice to new fish keepers.

I am also a soon-to-be Eagle Scout and a former Senior Patrol Leader of my Troop. I have also developed a patent-pending method to manufacture sustainable paper bags from kelp pulp. Through my non-profit organization Fireworks, I work with various elementary and middle school children who are interested in writing articles, public speaking, and STEM projects. I am a Davidson Young Scholar and Conrad Innovator. I play Tabla, a pair of hand drums that are used in Indian music.

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"It is truly a wonderful feeling to be selected as a Davidson Fellow. I put a lot of time and effort into conducting this independent wet-lab research. I am thrilled that my research project has been recognized by the Davidson Institute. This is a huge encouragement for me to continue my research in the field of bioengineering to advance scientific discovery and healthcare."

Project Description

With the COVID-19 pandemic having taken the world by storm, one reliable way to protect ourselves from a viral infection is by getting vaccinated. However, vaccines have limited efficacy in immunocompromised people as their bodies cannot mount a strong response to the vaccination and develop antibodies. A complement to vaccinations is necessary to thoroughly protect the immunocompromised from viral infections, and I turned to bacteria for a solution. In my current work, I hypothesized that the bacterial CRISPR-Ca9 system, which protects bacteria from viral infections, could be repurposed to function as an intracellular defense mechanism for human cells. After genetically engineering human cells to express Cas9, I introduced viral DNA into the cells and found that the Cas9 enzyme significantly reduced the expression of the viral DNA, effectively protecting the cell from infection.

Deeper Dive

CRISPR is a popular biotechnology tool that researchers have been using to modify the genes of a variety of organisms. CRISPR systems originate as a defense mechanism that bacteria use to cleave viral nucleic acids and, in turn, defend themselves from viral infections. In my research work, I investigated how the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 system could be repurposed to function as an inducible intracellular defense mechanism that protects human cells from viral infections.

To test this, I genetically engineered the A549 human lung carcinoma cell line to inducibly express the Cas9 enzyme. Afterwards, I introduced cytomegaloviral DNA into the cells and measured the expression of the DNA with a transcribed luminescent indicator. I found that when Cas9 was induced and coupled with a targeting guide, expression of the viral DNA significantly decreased, indicating that the Cas9 enzyme was successfully able to protect the cell from the introduced viral DNA. This discovery indicates that Cas9 and Cas enzymes in general can similarly be programmed to target other viral targets and protect humans from viral infections. The benefit of a CRISPR defense mechanism is that this system does not rely on the patient having a healthy immune system as vaccination does. Even immunocompromised individuals can defend themselves with Cas9 as the enzyme works within each cell individually. This work is novel because it characterizes an inducible Cas9 system and tests CRISPR’s efficacy against cytomegaloviruses which are widely prevalent in the human population and have no cure. I thoroughly investigated and characterized this inducible CRISPR system by studying its viral load tolerance, copy number, and inducibility.

I came up with this idea after learning about the limited effectiveness of vaccines in immunocompromised patients. With the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt that it was high time and very pertinent to develop a complement to vaccinations to further protect people from viral infections.

One challenge that I had during this research was teaching myself all the wet-bench techniques required to conduct a project of this caliber. Due to the pandemic, the local bio-hackerspace I worked at was not offering training classes. I watched videos, studied research papers, read through research fora, and talked with my lab colleagues to teach myself how to use the different lab equipment and then apply what I learned to my research. I learned techniques like mammalian cell transfection, quantitative PCR, bacterial transformation, and nucleic acid purification, all of which required patience, persistence, and dedication. Overall, conducting this research was a gratifying and rewarding experience for me. I am glad that I found a way to work through the pandemic. This work would not have been possible without my lab supervisor Mr. Johan Sosa, my mentor Mr. Merrick Pierson Smela, and my biotechnology teacher, Dr. Karen Allendoerfer. I am also one of the first high school students to deposit cloned CRISPR plasmids to Addgene, an international non-profit plasmid repository. Now researchers from across the world can access the materials generated from my project. My project won first place at the local Synopsys science fair this year, and I was a Bay Area 2022 Biogeneius finalist. I have also completed and published a paper on my research work.

My work has a strong potential to impact people’s lives. By stably integrating Cas9 or a different RNA targeting Cas variant into the genome of humans, the body will be more equipped to handle viral infections. CRISPR-Cas systems have the potential to act as powerful viral therapy that allows those with weakened immune systems to protect themselves. This work characterizes one such system and validates the efficacy of Cas9. With further investigation, a future where the CRISPR-Cas systems are fully utilized within the human body may become a reality.


What is your absolute dream job?

Owning my own tropical fish store

What is one of your favorite quotes?

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

What are the top three foreign countries you’d like to visit?

I’d want to visit Australia to snorkel in the Great barrier reef, Peru to zipline through the Amazon rainforest, and to Japan to see some koi mud ponds.

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In The News

San Francisco – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2022 scholarship winners. Among the honorees are Arjun Barrett, 16, of Santa Clara, Elane Kim, 17, of Walnut Creek, and Indeever Madireddy, 17, of San Jose. Only 21 students across the country are recognized as 2022 scholarship winners.

Download the full press release here