Visionaries who continue to reshape the field of biotechnology.
By Raif Karerat
WASHINGTON, DC: Scientific American has released the World View 100, a list of visionaries who continue to reshape the field of biotechnology, and scattered throughout the who’s-who of biotech luminaries are seven Indian Americans and one Indian national; Sangeeta Bhatia, Atul Butte, Anita Goel, Ganesh Kishore, Raju Kucherlapati, Ram Sasisekharan, Rajiv Shah, and Kiran Mazumdar (from India) are among the honorees.
Included among the overarching Worldview 100 are researchers who provided fundamental insights into biological processes, business experts who had the foresight to provide financial backing in this high-risk, nascent technology sector, and entrepreneurs who constructed and implemented the business principles that made those investments pay off.
The list, which was nominated and voted on by a panel of experts, also recognizes several legislators and administrators who understood the need to create fertile conditions for biotechnology to flourish, as well as a number of media figures who have helped to convey its potential to the community at large.
The nascent field of biotechnology is only four decades old, according to Scientific American, and the magazine cites that the discipline established itself at the 1975 Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, at which the potential benefits and hazards of DNA manipulation and the ways it should be regulated were debated and essentially decided upon.
Most of the seminal figures in the development of biotechnology are still alive today, and many of them continue to work in the field they helped lay the foundations for.
The Indian and Indian American honorees are listed below, along with their Scientific American vignettes:
Director | Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies | MIT | Cambridge, Mass.
Director | Institute of Computational Health Sciences | University of California, San Francisco | San Francisco, Cali.
Discussing the new institute, Butte notes, “We hope that we will be successful in making discoveries and developing diagnostics and therapeutics. If we want to change the world of medicine, we have to bring those discoveries into the marketplace and closer to patients.”
Chairman & Scientific Director | Nanobiosym | Cambridge, Mass.
Goel received the 2013 XPRIZE in recognition of her pioneering contributions to the new field of nanobiophysics and her Gene-RADAR technology, which she described in the 2014 edition of Worldview as “a mobile diagnostic platform for providing anyone, anytime, anywhere with instant access to personalized information about their health.”
CEO | Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund | St. Louis, Miss.
“The greatest concern I have,” Kishore told Worldview, “is that the emotional and geographic barriers for the adoption of products of biotechnology have become globally rampant. In fact, it is troubling that our society fails to recognize that all food in our plant and even animal food chain today is ‘genetically modified’—and even evolution is about genetic modification leading to adaptation.”
Paul C. Cabot Professor | Department of Genetics | Harvard Medical School | Boston, Mass.
Kucherlapati told PhRMAdigital, “Personalized medicine has the potential to significantly alter the health and well-being of all of the American population. And if our population begins to recognize what personalized medicine is, how the principles of personalized medicine would apply to their health and well-being, it would have a very significant impact.”
lfred H. Caspary Professor of Biological Engineering and Health Sciences & Technology | Department of Biological Engineering | MIT | Cambridge, Mass.
Sasisekharan told us that his biggest contribution to biotechnology was “developing a technology platform for glycobiology that has impacted both regulatory as well as drug development in various fields.” To enhance the effectiveness of biotech today, Sasisekharan would like find ways to “speed the process of bringing much-needed medicines to patients.”
Distinguished Fellow | School of Foreign Service | Georgetown University | Washington, DC
With nearly 60,000 Twitter followers, Shah tweets on a range of topics, from coffee to Ebola. On February 18th he wrote: “We have to find new ways of bringing huge pools of capital to #globaldev, especially in infrastructure. Be bold & creative going forward.”
Chairman & Managing Director | Biocon | Bengaluru, India
In the 2011 edition of Scientific American Worldview, Mazumdar told us: “My philosophy has been one of differentiation. Look at what’s there and keep challenging yourself to be different: If everyone is after generic products, how can you get into novel programs? If you can do that, then you stand apart and you can do things more effectively.”