The Wired Smart List 2013 (In Medicine)
This article was taken from the December 2013 issue of Wired magazine. With all due respect, the Proofreaders and I went through the list of the 50, and tried to cull it down to those who directly affect Medicine; the Proofreaders were sorely disappointed that there were no “exotic dancers” in the top 50. The article is structured so that noted “Mentors” nominate candidates that are outstanding in innovation)
1. Bill Gates chairman, Microsoft, selects: Margarida Matsinhe — field officer, VillageReach
After a century of brutal colonial rule and decades of civil war, Mozambique in 1992 was a country in need of good news. That’s when Margarida Matsinhe chose to dedicate her life’s work to saving children’s lives by restarting her country’s immunisation programme. Her team at an organisation called VillageReach trains workers who make sure vaccines travel “the last mile” through remote areas with treacherous roads and little infrastructure, and end up at health centres where children can get them. Before the improved distribution system, nobody knew how many people lived in the communities and what the demand was for vaccines. Now, her team tracks demographic information. These figures are then used to forecast the number of vaccines needed in each health centre, ensuring that the correct ones arrive where and when they’re needed. The alternative would be sending away children and pregnant mothers who walked up to 15 kilometres to get there. As a result of her work, the percentage of children receiving vaccines has risen from 68 to 95, getting ever closer to her goal of 100 percent.
2. Elaine Mardis codirector, the Genome Institute, selects: Malachi and Obi Griffith — researchers, Washington University
Malachi and Obi Griffith are identical twins who lost their mother to cancer just as they were graduating high school. They’re set to change the world of cancer genomics. The powerful combination of commitment, incredible intellect and a sharp focus is shared by this duo as they decode the secrets of individual cancer cases and try to identify the best-targeted therapies to treat advanced-stage disease. The vision of these two young bioinformatics wizards has helped build a pipeline for data analysis and interpretation that is set to change our approach to cancer into an “N of 1” [an individualised] focus that will deliver precision diagnoses to each patient.
3. Siddhartha Mukherjee author and physician, Columbia University, selects: John Dick — senior scientist, Ontario Cancer Institute
It would be unfair to call John Dick an “emerging” talent, since he’s emerged already:his laboratory sits at the cutting edge of cancer biology. Dick discovered that cancers can co-opt the properties of stem cells. Like stem cells, cancers can renew without exhaustion; they acquire self-renewal — but without self-control. And he and others have hypothesised that this property might be the reason that some cancers cannot be cured by chemotherapy or surgery. Now, laboratories around the world are exploring these parallels between normal stem cells and cancer stem cells in the hope of creating new medicines that attack these cells. It is a parallel that has both medical and philosophical consequences: could cancer — a disease often described as “degenerative” — actually instead be a disease of uncontrolled regeneration?
4. Eric Topol, cardiologist and geneticist, selects: Stephen Quake — professor of bioengineering at Stanford
Stephen is the founder of a technology to sequence the whole genome of a foetus. He also invented a biological equivalent of an integrated circuit, as well as the first single-molecule DNA-sequencing tech. Much of his work has already changed medicine.
5. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, selects: Cameron Simmons — professor of infectious diseases
Based in Vietnam, Cam is leading important research on dengue fever, which infects 400 million people a year and is one of the few infectious diseases for which there’s no vaccine or treatment. Cam’s work encompasses epidemiology, genomics, bioinformatics, trials, entomology, immunology and virology.
6. Cynthia Breazeal Director, MIT Media Lab’s Personal Robots Group, selects: Rana el Kaliouby — research scientist, MIT Media Lab
Rana is a brilliant scientist and entrepreneur who’s doing incredibly exciting work in enabling computers to measure emotions. The ability for computers to sense and respond to people in a socially and emotionally intelligent manner is transformative.
7. Peter Molyneux, video-game designer, selects: Demis Hassabis — research fellow, UCL
Demis is an extraordinary polymath, able to find unexpected and profound connections between very disparate subjects. He combines these interdisciplinary skills with an exceptional ability to assemble and inspire talented teams to tackle innovative ideas. His prolific and diverse accomplishments range from — when he was just 17 — programming the artificial intelligence for the multimillion-selling simulation game Theme Park, to winning the world games championship a record five times, to pioneering neuroscience research connecting memory and imagination, which was listed by Science as one of the top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2007. Uniting his eclectic interests is a lifelong passion for advancing AI. His new work fusing the latest progress in systems neuroscience with cutting-edge machine learning looks set to revolutionise the field.
8. Paul Jacobs, CEO, Qualcomm selects: Raj Krishnan — cofounder and CEO, biological dynamics
Raj Krishnan has discovered a new, low-cost, easy way to detect cancer in its earliest stages. He became the CEO of Biological Dynamics (BD), a startup that creates the patents for this groundbreaking technology, while in his twenties. I’ve been so impressed with Raj and his work that I’ve invested in BD.
9. Ben Goldacre, author and Wellcome research fellow in epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, selects: Peter Doshi — postdoctoral fellow, Johns Hopkins University
There’s a huge problem in medicine: about half of all clinical trials for the treatments we use today haven’t been published. Peter has been at the forefront of solutions to this problem, documenting the details and helping to devise a project that might at least restore some missing trials to the public record. I know from my own work that many people in medicine don’t want to discuss these kinds of problems, even though the impact on patient care is significant. So the fact that Peter is doing this as an early-career researcher — apparently without fear, but also without melodrama — is inspiring. If he doesn’t go far, something has gone very wrong in medicine.
10. J Craig Venter, founder, chairman and CEO, J Craig Venter Institute, selects: Daniel Gibson — associate professor, J Craig Venter Institute
He’s a scientist who’s made major contributions to DNA synthesis that have resulted in the creation of the first synthetic bacterial cell, and the development of an enabling suite of DNA synthesis and assembly methods, including Gibson Assembly, which is used in laboratories around the world.
12. Peter Diamandis, founder, X Prize; cofounder, Singularity University, selects: Jack Andraka — scientist and inventor
At 16, Jack is the youngest adjunct faculty member to teach at Singularity. His insightful, persistent and innovative work — at age 15 — in cancer research and detection, and his entrepreneurial approach, demonstrate he has the passion, intellect and resources to change the world. He has done so already.
13. Jim Al-Khalili, professor of physics, University of Surrey, selects: Molly Stevens — professor of biomedical materials and regenerative medicine, Imperial College London
Molly was one of the very early guests on my Radio 4 programme The Life Scientific and she was quite fascinating. What struck me most is her ability to bring so many different people from diverse disciplines together under one roof.
14. Ben Silbermann, cofounder and CEO, Pinterest, selects: Karl Deisseroth — professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, Stanford University
Karl Deisserith has made some really tremendous breakthroughs in the development of optogenetic methods for studying the function of neuronal networks’ underlying behaviour. He takes risks and encourages others to do the same. He gives people on his team great opportunities and always makes sure to share the credit.