IIB welcomes Dr Sohail Asif QureshiDecember 20, 2016
Some of the best innovations, developments, and other mind-boggling advances in biology and medicine are being made every day by brilliant scientists around the world. These scientists have carved a new face of biotechnology.
The world is largely on social media these days and so are the biotech greats. From improving our understanding of everything; from the human brain to the trillions of microbes that live on and within us, these researchers are revolutionizing the field. What could be more of a treat than to come across inspiring views from the icons of the biotech realm?
If you aspire to pursue a career in Biotechnology, you must be aware of the likes of:
John Craig Venter (born October 14, 1946) :
For more than two decades Dr. J. Craig Venter and his research teams have been pioneers in genomic research. The revolution began in 1991, when at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Venter and his team developed Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs): a new technique to rapidly discover genes. Dr. Venter and his colleagues then started a new kind of not-for-profit research institute, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR).
With the freedom to pursue any number of exciting possibilities in the expanding field of genomics, the team decided to use their new computational tools, as well as new DNA sequencing technology, to sequence the first free-living organism, Haemophilus influenzae in 1995. With this advance, the floodgates of genomics were opened.
TIGR went on to sequence and analyze more than 50 microbial genomes. Dr. Venter and some from his team moved into mammalian genomics and sequenced some of the most important model organisms including the fruit fly, mouse and rat. The world’s attention was perhaps most keenly focused on the sequencing and analysis of one genome — the human — which was published in 2001 by Dr. Venter and his team at Celera Genomics.
George Church (born 28 August, 1954) :
A professor at Harvard & MIT, co-author of 425 papers, 95 patent publications and the book Regenesis. He developed methods for the first genome sequence (1994) and a million-fold cost reductions since (via NGS and Nanopores). He co-initiated the BRAIN Initiative (2011) & Genome Projects (1984, 2005) to provide and interpret the world’s only open-access personal precision medicine datasets. His 1984 Harvard PhD included the first methods for direct genome sequencing, molecular multiplexing & barcoding. These led to the first genome sequence (pathogen, Helicobacter pylori) in 1994. His innovations have contributed to nearly all “next generation” DNA sequencing methods and companies such as CGI-BGI, Life, Illumina, and Nanopore. Along with his lab’s work on chip-DNA-synthesis, gene editing and stem cell engineering resulted in founding additional application-based companies, spanning fields of medical diagnostics.
Ali Khademhosseini (born October 30, 1975):
His research is based on developing micro- and nanoscale biomaterials to control cellular behavior with particular emphasis in developing engineered materials and systems for tissue engineering. Khademhosseini is also developing ‘organ-on-a-chip’ systems that aim to mimic human response to various chemicals in vitro. In addition, his laboratory is developing technologies to control the formation of vascularized tissues with appropriate micro-architectures as well as regulating stem cell differentiation within micro-engineered systems. He has also pioneered various high performance biomaterials for medical applications that are currently being pursued for clinical translation. He has edited multiple books / journal special issues and is an author of more than 450 peer-reviewed journal articles, editorials and review papers, over 60 book chapters/edited books and above 20 patent/disclosure applications. His work has been published in leading journals and routinely highlighted in international media. He has been cited approximately 25,000 times and has an H-index of 83. Also, he has delivered over 250 invited seminars and keynote lectures. In 2014, 2015, and 2016 he was also selected by Thomson Reuters as one of the ‘World’s Most Influential Minds’.
Jennifer Doudna (born 19 February, 1964):
Dr. Jennifer Doudna is a member of the departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Chemistry at UC Berkeley, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, along with the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Jennifer Doudna developed ‘CRISPR’ — a method of genetic engineering to make precise genetic changes with relative ease. In 2014, CRISPR saw its first major success in two female monkey twins, Mingming and Lingling, who were born healthy, but with specific genetic mutations created through the technology.
Doudna has been widely acclaimed by the scientific community for her fundamental contributions to the field of biochemistry, receiving many prestigious awards and fellowships. She has also been recognized outside of the scientific community, being named one of the ‘Time’s 100 most influential people’ in 2015, and listed as a runner-up for ‘Time’s Person of the Year’ in 2016 alongside other CRISPR researchers.
Edward Boyden (born 18 August, 1979) :
Edward “Ed” Boyden is a professor of Biological Engineering and Brain & Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain, and applies them systematically to reveal ground truth principles of biological function as well as to repair these systems. These technologies include expansion microscopy, which enables complex biological systems to be imaged with nanoscale precision, and optogenetic tools, which enable the activation and silencing of neural activity with light, amongst many other innovations. He co-directs the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, which aims to develop new tools to accelerate neuroscience progress.
Eric S. Lander (born 3 February, 1957) :
Eric Lander is president and founding director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard. A geneticist, molecular biologist, and mathematician, Lander has played a pioneering role in all aspects of the reading, understanding, and biomedical application of the human genome. He was one of the principal leaders of the international Human Genome Project (HGP) from 1990 to 2003, with his center being the largest contributor to the mapping and sequencing of the human blueprint.
With his colleagues, Lander has developed and applied methods for discovering the molecular basis of rare genetic diseases, common diseases, and cancer. He has done pioneering work on: genetic variation; population history; evolutionary forces; regulatory elements; long non-coding RNAs; three-dimensional folding of the human genome; and methods to systematically identify the genes essential for biological processes.
Pardis Sabeti (born 25 December, 1975) :
Sabeti is a computational geneticist whose lab develops powerful methods and tools for advancing genome biology and medicine. She has created some of the most widely used algorithms to mine our genome for instances of human adaptation, and created powerful molecular tools to elucidate their underlying biology.
When the Ebola epidemic began in West Africa, Dr. Pardis Sabeti led a team that did something critically important: it sequenced virus samples from infected patients almost as soon as the outbreak began. This marked the first in-depth use of real-time DNA sequencing in the midst of such a deadly pandemic. Pardis and her team were able to work out clearly that the virus was spreading human to human—not from mosquito bites or some pig vector or something else. There were so many theories out there, but her work proved that there’s nothing like real data to get rid of myths and guesses, and get down to the facts. Many of her scientific collaborators died during this outbreak. This is high-risk research, but it ended up saving a lot of lives too.
Entrepreneur, author, scientist. Namesake of “Carlson Curves” and originator of the first estimates of global biotech revenues. Carlson is the author of the book Biology is Technology: The Promise, Peril, and New Business of Engineering Life, published in 2010 by Harvard University Press. It received the PROSE award for the Best Engineering and Technology Book of 2010 and was named to the ‘Best Books of 2010’ lists by writers at both The Economist and Foreign Policy. Carlson earned a doctorate in Physics from Princeton University in 1997.
Scientists and engineers around the globe dream of employing biology to create new objects. The goal might be building replacement organs, electronic circuits, living houses, or cowborgs and carborgs (as in Cyborg) that are composed of both standard electromechanical components and novel biological components. Looking a bit further down the road, Dr. Carlson expects organs and tissues that have never existed before. For example, we might be able to manufacture hybrid internal organs for the cowborg that process rough biomass into renewable fuels and chemicals.
Drew Endy (born 1970) :
Drew Endy developed the world’s first “fabless” genetic engineering teaching lab in the new Bioengineering program at Stanford, and previously helped start the Biological Engineering major at MIT. His Stanford research team develops genetically encoded computers and redesigns genomes. He co-founded the BioBricks Foundation as a public-benefit charity supporting free-to-use standards and technology that enable the engineering of biology (BioBricks.org). He co-organized the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM.org) competition, the BIOFAB International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology (BIOFAB.org), and Gen9, Inc. (Gen9bio.com). He serves on the US Committee on Science Technology and Law, and is a new voting member of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity. He chaired the 2003 Synthetic Biology study as a member of DARPA ISAT. He also served as an ad hoc member of the US NIH Recombinant DNA Advisor Committee, and co-authored the 2007 “Synthetic Genomics: Options for Governance” report with colleagues from the Center for Strategic & International Studies and the J. Craig Venter Institute. Esquire named Endy one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.
Feng Zhang (born 22 October, 1982) :
Zhang is a bioengineer focused on developing tools to better understand the nervous system function and disease. His lab applies these novel tools to interrogate gene function and study neuropsychiatric disorders in animal and stem cell models. Since joining MIT and the Broad Institute in January 2011, Zhang has pioneered the development of genome editing tools for use in eukaryotic cells – including human cells – from natural microbial CRISPR systems. These tools, which he has made widely available, are accelerating biomedical research around the world.
Zhang leverages CRISPR and other methodologies to study the role of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying diseases, specifically focusing on disorders of the nervous system. He is especially interested in complex disorders, such as psychiatric and neurological diseases, that are caused by multiple genetic and environmental risk factors and which are difficult to model using conventional methods. His approaches are also being used in the fields of immunology, clinical medicine, cancer biology, and other areas of research. Zhang’s long-term goal is to develop novel therapeutic strategies for disease treatment.
Although Zhang is well-known for his pioneering work on CRISPR, he is also widely recognized for developing another breakthrough technology called ‘Optogenetics’ with Karl Deisseroth at Stanford University and Edward Boyden, now of MIT. Nature Methods named Optogenetics its 2010 ‘Method of the Year’. Zhang demonstrated the utility of Optogenetics, in which neuronal activity can be controlled with light, by studying neural circuits in the brain.