Research Science Institute Alumna Winner at International BioGENEius Challenge

MCLEAN, Va. - Aug. 25, 2021 - PRLog -- The Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) is pleased to announce that Meenakshi Ambati, a junior at Albemarle High School in Charlottesville, VA, who attended CEE's Research Science Institute (RSI) this summer, is this year's overall winner of the International BioGENEius Challenge in the Global Healthcare category.

"I am so proud of Meenakshi," said Joann P. DiGennaro, CEE President. "She is among the world's most innovative young researchers and personifies CEE's role in nurturing excellence in STEM research."

In her research, Meena investigated the structural similarity between fluoxetine, a drug already approved by the FDA for depression, and another molecule, CY09, a known "inflammasome" inhibitor. Through computer modeling and experiments, she showed that fluoxetine was a potent, but far less toxic, inhibitor of a key enzyme in the inflammatory pathway critical to the onset of Atrophic Macular Degeneration, leading to the degeneration of the retinal epithelium. Meena also took first place in the coveted fast pitch Gene Pool competition.

The International BioGENEius Challenge was held in conjunction with BIO Digital 2021, a convention hosted by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) June 10-17. The BioGENEius Challenge provides high school students the opportunity to compete and be recognized for outstanding research in biotechnology. The BioGENEius Challenge is organized by the Biotechnology Institute, a U.S. based organization dedicated to biotechnology education.


About the Center for Excellence in Education

The Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) was founded in 1983 by the late Admiral H.G. Rickover and Joann P. DiGennaro, President of the Center. The Center's mission is to nurture high school and university scholars to careers of excellence and leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and to encourage collaboration between and among scientific and technological leaders in the global community. CEE sponsors the Research Science Institute (RSI), the USA Biolympiad (USABO), and the Teacher Enrichment Program (TEP). Visit CEE's website at

About Research Science Institute

For the past 37 years, CEE's Research Science Institute has provided students with the opportunity to conduct original research in state-of-the-art university laboratories, hospitals, and corporate research facilities. The heart of RSI is the six-week research internship where students conduct individual projects under the tutelage of mentors who are scientists and researchers. RSI is cost-free for students to attend. RSI is collaboratively sponsored with MIT. For more, visit

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