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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Xiaowei Zhuang, 32

She has filmed a single influenza virus infecting a cell.

Assistant professor, Harvard University

Xiaowei Zhuang makes movies of the invisible. Peering into a microscope, she has filmed a single influenza virus infecting a cell. Her studies mark the first time anyone has recorded the stages of this process. Zhuang accomplished this feat by attaching fluorescent molecular tags to the virus; when excited with a laser, the tags emit specific colors of light. She has used the approach to track the behavior of not only individual viruses but even individual molecules, such as strands of RNA, at unprecedented levels of detail. Coming from a traditional physics PhD program, Zhuang very quickly began to lead experiments in single-molecule biophysics as a postdoc in Steven Chus lab at Stanford University. "With total ease, she immersed herself in biological physics and did an astounding amount of seminal work," Chu says. Since establishing her own lab at Harvard, Zhuang has continued to do "landmark experiments at a blistering pace," he adds. Direct observations of individual molecules are essential to really understanding how life works, Zhuang believes. "In the biology world, there are a lot of very small things that are doing critical functions," she says. "There is a lot of interesting dynamic information one can get out of this kind of single-particle approach." In her work on the flu virus, for example, Zhuang discovered that viruses move through the cell in three stages -- one of which is so short that it could only be directly observed with high-speed imaging. "This experiment revealed unprecedented details of virus infection pathways," says Harvard chemist Sunney Xie. Eventually, this in-depth understanding of how viruses work will help researchers find entirely new ways of blocking viral infection, Zhuang says. Indeed, virologists have begun asking to work with Zhuang, hoping to use her methods to study their own pet viruses.

2004 TR35 Winners

Vadim Backman

Found a way to spot colon cancer earlier than was previously possible

Yaakov Benenson

He wants to replace physicians with molecular machines that diagnose and treat diseases with phenomenal precision.

Rebekah Drezek

Develops photonic technologies that use targeted nanomaterials to detect, monitor, and treat breast and gynecologic cancers painlessly, and at a fraction of the cost of conventional approaches.

Ryan Egeland

Slashed the cost of producing a DNA chip from hundreds of dollars to a few dollars by combining microfluidics, computer control, and novel electrochemistry.

Michael Elowitz

Combines existing genes to build artificial biological pathways, or "circuits," that operate inside cells.

Tim Gardner

Constructs computer models of cellular pathways in order to optimize bacteria for energy production and environmental remediation.

Colin Hill

Aims to more than double human trials success rate by virtually prescreening drugs in computer models of human cells.

Shana Kelley

Builds nanoscale electrochemical and electrical sensors to detect medically relevant gene sequences and proteins.

Gloria Kolb

Devised a way to remove kidney stones more cost effectively and less invasively by taking advantage of the ureters tendency to dilate around foreign objects.

Jörg Lahann

Designed an electrically switchable surface coating that can alternate between attracting and repelling water.

Eric C. Leuthardt

Showed that a patient could achieve real-time control of a computer via electrodes placed on the brains surface.

David Liu

Applies evolutionary principles to synthetic molecules by linking starting materials to DNA strands.

Frank Lyko

Aims to reprogram cancer cells to be more like normal cells by developing compounds that block the aberrant modification of DNA in cancer cells.

Lauren Meyers

Helped public-health officials control epidemics of walking pneumonia and SARS with sophisticated mathematical models that predict how a disease will spread through networks of human interactions.

Ananth Natarajan

Bridging the gap between research and patient care.

Vasilis Ntziachristos

Facilitated noninvasive optical imaging of proteins and other molecules in the body, which could lead to ultraprecise diagnosis of cancer and other diseases.

Shayn Peirce

Models how individual cells in tissues migrate, multiply, and develop during processes such as blood vessel growth. The models should aid tissue engineering and drug development.

Cristoph Schaffrath

Discovered an enzyme that could enable environmentally benign production of fluorine-containing compounds such as Teflon and Prozac, which are now made via noxious chemical processes.

Monisha Scott

Determined how small, natural proteins boost the immune response.

Vikram Sheel Kumar

Developed interactive software that motivates patients to manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and AIDS.

Christina Smolke

Fine-tunes the activity of individual genes via an adaptable technology

Kahp-Yang Suh

Came up with the first method that allows researchers to pattern proteins and cells directly onto glass or plastic surfaces or within microfluidic channels without complicated preparation.

Olga Troyanskaya

Devised sophisticated and accurate computer algorithms for analyzing data generated using DNA microarrays.

Smruti Vidwans

Development of drugs to assist in the battle against TB.

Lei Wang

Expanded the genetic code in order to allow living cells to incorporate new, unnatural building blocks into the proteins that they make.

Sandra Waugh Ruggles

Uses clever testing schemes to determine which protein- slicing enzymes make the cut as potential drugs.

Xiaowei Zhuang

She has filmed a single influenza virus infecting a cell.


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