David Sabatini, 33
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
“Right now we have no way of saying, ‘Give me a drug candidate, then give me a list of every protein in the human body it interacts with,’” says David Sabatini, whose mellow demeanor is more characteristic of a jazz guitarist than a molecular biologist. “But my technology can do that.” The payoff, he says, could be better drug design .His technology is a glass chip, essentially a microscope slide, spotted with several thousand mammalian cells. Each spot of cells makes a different protein; researchers can wash a potential drug over the slide to see how it interacts with thousands of proteins at once. In the past, testing all those proteins might have taken months. Today a patent on the chip is pending, and Sabatini has raked in $6.5 million in capital for his Cambridge, MA, startup, Akceli. But drug screening is only one application: Sabatini aims to make a cell-based chip that will allow researchers to study every protein encoded in the human genome at once. He says his chip could allow researchers to identify the mutated genes that lead to disease.