GERMANTOWN, Tenn. — A Shelby County teenager is joining the front lines in the fight against COVID-19.

Seventeen-year-old Harshu Pande is working on a vaccine for the virus.

“It feels really important and I feel that there’s a big sense of responsibility, like you have to make sure that you don’t mess up,” Pande said, “You have to take this really serious now.”

The Houston High School senior says his approach is unique because it isolates a part of the virus not many other researchers are looking at. It’s located in a specific protein.

“The part that we came up with is a certain part called the receptor binding domain,” Pande said.

Pande wants to use it to create antibodies. The Germantown resident recently won a $10,000 grant for his plan after entering a competition put on by the National Society of High School Scholars.

He intends to start testing animals in the coming weeks.

“By immunizing mice and trying to analyze the antibodies and stuff like that,” Pande said.

Human trials would come next and, if successful, Pande believes his vaccine could effectively immunize a wide range of people.

“One important criteria for a vaccine is it should help people across the world, not just one segment of the population,” Pande said.

It’s a monumental challenge Pande is eager to take on.

“More than exciting it’s so much a learning process,” Pande said, “There are so many complexities and different stuff that I’m starting to learn that I never would have thought of just doing my science classes at school.”