Thijn Brummelkamp named one of the world's top young innovators by MIT's Technology Review magazine

September 14, 2005

Tags: Awards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (September 14, 2005) - Whitehead Institute Fellow Thijn Brummelkamp has been chosen as one of the world's 35 Top Young Innovators by MIT's Technology Review magazine. The TR35 consists of 35 individuals under 35 years of age whose innovative work in business and technology has a profound impact on the world. Nominees are recognized for their contribution in transforming the nature of technology in industries such as biotechnology, information technology, energy, medicine, manufacturing, nanotechnology, telecommunications and transportation. Brummelkamp will be honored on September 28-29 during Technology Review's 2005 Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT.

Brummelkamp is an expert in cancer genetics. He exploits a process called RNA interference (RNAi), in which small RNA molecules can selectively turn off specific genes.

The short lives of these small RNA molecules have made them difficult to use for cancer research, where the cells need to be observed over long periods of time throughout many cell divisions. Brummelkamp addressed this problem.

While still in graduate school, he and his colleagues developed a small RNA molecule that could last the entire life of the cell. He did this by engineering a plasmid, a circular strand of DNA that encodes the RNA. When placed into a cell, the plasmid enables the cell to naturally produce this small RNA molecule, and thus to permanently shut down the targeted gene. The plasmid continues to produce the small RNA in the cell's progeny as well. While Brummelkamp uses this technique primarily for cancer research, it has wide application in many areas of molecular biology.

Nobel laureate and RNAi expert Phillip Sharp told Technology Review that Brummelkamp's work "will lead to new treatments" for cancer.

Two other young scientists named to the TR35 are former Whitehead Fellow Trey Ideker, now at the University of California, San Diego, and former Whitehead postdoctoral scientist Kevin Eggan, now at Harvard University. And in 2002, Whitehead Associate Member David Sabatini was named a top young innovator by the magazine.

The TR35 panel of judges includes:

Howard Anderson, Managing director, YankeeTek Ventures
Gordon Bell, Senior researcher, Microsoft's Media Presence Research Group
Alexis Borisy, Founder, president, and CEO, CombinatoRx
Aref Chowdhury, Member of technical staff, quantum information and optics research department, Lucent Technologies' Bell Laboratories
Joe Chung, Cofounder, Art Technology Group
James Collins, Professor of biomedical engineering, Boston University
Sanjay Correa, Global technology leader for energy and propulsion technologies, General Electric Global Research
Irene Greif, IBM fellow and department group manager, Collaborative User Experience, IBM
Bill Joy, Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers
Christina Lampe-Onnerud, CEO, Boston-Power
Chad Mirkin, Professor of chemistry, Northwestern University
Nicholas Negroponte, Professor of media technology and founding chairman, MIT Media Laboratory
Micah Siegel, President and CEO, Concept2Company
Michael S. Tomczyk, Managing director, Mack Center for Technological Innovation, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Sophie V. Vandebroek, Chief engineer, Xerox
Susie Wee, Principal research scientist and R&D department manager, Hewlett-Packard Labs
Chelsea C. White III, Professor of transportation and logistics, School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
Jackie Ying, Executive director, Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Singapore
Daphne Zohar, Founder and managing general partner, PureTech Ventures

Written by David Cameron.

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