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

Christopher Lee, 33

University of California, Los Angeles

Christopher Lee calls it the "great anticlimax" of the Human Genome Project. "We’ve generated massive amounts of data. If we could only figure out what it means!" As a leading designer of bioinformatics software, Lee is doing as much as anyone to help biologists mine the mountains of data for clues to how genes work and their role in disease. Among Lee’s creations is GeneMine, a program that scours big Internet databases, compiling and analyzing information to identify the most functionally important of the thousands of human genes. Many of the world’s largest drug firms have bought a commercial version of the program, which is sold by Molecular Applications Group in Palo Alto, Calif., a company Lee co-founded in 1993 and one of the most successful players in the growing bioinformatics industry.

Lee’s latest effort focuses on "single nucleotide polymorphisms," or SNPs, tiny genetic differences between people. He’s trying to zero in on the specific SNPs that account for physical traits and for individuals differing response to drugs. Hunting SNPs in the 6 billion bits of DNA in the human genome is no trivial task, but Lee’s enterprising lab recently built a supercomputer out of 150 400MHz Pentium II chips to speed analysis by an order of magnitude. "We are trying to make the most intense meeting of data and theory possible," says Lee.


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