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

Kelvin Lee, 32

Medicine

Cornell University

Mad-cow disease occurs when an unruly protein called a prion causes healthy proteins in cattle brains to misfold. The same is true for the human versions of mad cow—“variant” Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is contracted from beef, and the naturally occurring “sporadic” form. But until Kelvin Lee unleashed a new style of protein analysis, diagnosing these maladies required a postmortem brain biopsy—obviously, too late for patients. During postdoctoral work at Caltech in 1996,Lee identified a marker protein for sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, yielding the first premortem test for the ailment. Lee went beyond the traditional method of studying a few proteins at a time; instead, he simultaneously analyzed the 2,000 proteins in human spinal fluid to pick out the telltale compound. In 1997 he confirmed that the disruptive protein also appears in mad-cow-afflicted cattle. People are now being tested for the protein in the U.S. and Europe. No one has confirmed whether the same marker characterizes variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, but Lee’s team recently identified other protein indicators that may prove fruitful. Lee is also working on a similar test for Alzheimer’s.

2002 TR35 Winners

Ewan Birney

Biotechnology

Fiona Brinkman

Biotechnology

Chris Burge

Biotechnology

Benjamin Cravatt

Biotechnology

Nathaniel David

Biotechnology

Susan Hagness

Medicine

Derek Hansford

Materials

J. Joseph Kim

Medicine

Steven Laken

Medicine

Kelvin Lee

Medicine

Milan Mrksich

Materials

Stephen OConnor

Biotechnology

Alexander Olek

Biotechnology

Vijay Pande

Biotechnology

Stephen Quake

Materials

David Sabatini

Biotechnology

John Santini

Medicine

David Schaffer

Medicine

Christoph Westphal

Biotechnology

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