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

Ron Weiss, 33

Programs living cells to sense toxins ot create replacement tissues

Princeton University

Ron Weiss likes to give orders. In his lab at Princeton University, the assistant professor of electrical engineering sets the conversation and dictates the action. His charges, however, are not students but cells. Weiss builds synthetic DNA circuits- strings of genes that operate much like the logic circuits of computers- and injects them into E. coli bacteria, where they direct cell behavior. His goal? Create networks of different cells that work together to sense environmental toxins, generate new tissue, or perform other jobs. Collaborating with researchers at Princeton and Caltech, Weiss shares almost $6 million in grants, much of it from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In one of his projects, Weiss leads a multiple laboratory effort to program groups of cells to act as biological sentinels. Such systems could detect and pinpoint the locations of anthrax or other biological weapons. In another project, Weiss is devising faster, more reliable ways to direct stem cells to create new tissues to replace those lost to disease or injury- which means that one day a doctor might be able to order your own cells to heal you.

2003 TR35 Winners

Guillermo Ameer

Synthesized "biorubbers" that could replace damaged heart and lung tissue and rebuild blood vessels

Helene Andersson

Produces portable, inexpensive, microprocessor-size labs for research and industry

Sangeeta Bhatia

Uses microchip-manufacturing tools to build artificial livers

Alexis Borisy

Believes that combining different drugs could yield better ways to fight disease

Eugene Chan

Aims to speed genome sequencing with a machine that reads DNA letter by letter

Bassil Dahiyat

Designs proteins from scratch to create new medicine

Benjamin G. Davis

Manipulates biological sugars for more precise drug delivery

Christophe Echeverri

Develops fast, automated processes for figuring out genes functions

Michael E. Gertner

Set out to improve the tiny devices that keep once blocked arteries open

Jay Groves

Patented a lab-on-a-chip to investigate call proteins that cause diseases

Justin Hanes

Creates systems for delivering drugs to where theyre needed in the body

Andre Koltermann

Speeds protein evolution to improve detergents, medicines, and foods

Erin Lavik

Helped paralyzed rats walk again and aims to do the same for people

Xiangjun Liu

Maps gene variations that could warn of future disease

Anthony Lowman

Packs insulin into gel pills that could replace injections for diabetes patients

Gavin Macbeath

Unravels complex biological systems in his search for new drugs

Nimmi Ramanujam

Uses light to help make diagnosing breast cancer and cervical cancer faster, more accurate and less invasive

Shuvo Roy

Builds tiny machines that can warn of impending heart attack and monitor healing after surgery

Ram Samudrala

Wrote algorithms that can predict the functions of proteins from the sequence of a genome

Christophe Schilling

Transforms microbes into fine-tuned manufacturing machines

Mark Schnitzer

Sheds light on the functioning of individual brain cells

Mijail Serruya

Connects brains directly to computers int he hope of helping paralyzed people communicate and control robotic aids

Micah Siegel

Transforms research from universities and national labs into successful startups

Giovanni Traverso

Came up with a noninvasive alternative to colonoscopy

Rita Vanbever

Wants to make treating diabetes as easy as breathing

Ron Weiss

Programs living cells to sense toxins ot create replacement tissues

Jennifer West

Synthesizes blood vessels that could reduce the trauma of heart surgery

Daphne Zohar

Spots promising biotech work and helps build new companies to commercialize it

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