Sandro de Souza, 31
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
Genome research is big science--and it costs big bucks, which is why it’s centered in the United States, Europe and Japan. But thanks to scientists like Sandro de Souza, developing nations, such as his native Brazil, are not entirely out of the game. De Souza’s specialty is bioinformatics: computer-driven gene research that’s relatively cheap to get into, and where there’s great science to be done. As a postdoc in Nobelist Walter Gilbert’s Harvard lab, de Souza helped solve a crucial mystery in the evolutionary history of genes, a breakthrough Gilbert attributes to de Souza’s "technical abilities and profoundly creative insights."
Now de Souza is home, where he says he is turning bioinformatics into "an opportunity to do front-edge science" in his native country. He works for the São Paulo arm of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, a global research institution that’s partnered with local government to launch a gene discovery project. Heading up the bioinformatics branch, de Souza will play a key role in unearthing genes associated with stomach and breast cancers--tumors especially prevalent in São Paulo, where cancer is the leading cause of death. De Souza will organize the genes into a database accessible to scientists worldwide, including collaborators at the National University of Singapore’s Bioinformatics Center, where de Souza is also a faculty member.