Bruce Lahn, 30
University of Chicago
Male contraception (i.e., the lack thereof) has been a hot topic in recent years. The research Bruce Lahn does might help bring that elusive commodity closer to reality. Lahn’s expertise is human genetics. For his PhD thesis under David Page at the Whitehead Institute, he took on the gargantuan task of cataloging the genes of the human Y chromosome, which distinguishes males from females. In the process he increased the number of known Y genes from 8 to 20. But that achievement was just a warm-up.
As a postdoctoral researcher, Lahn reconstructed a detailed evolutionary history of the Y chromosome and dug into functional studies of the newly found genes. He demonstrated that the Y chromosome carries a wealth of genes implicated in male fertility, a discovery that could open the way for new infertility treatments, perhaps even a male birth control pill that would work by deactivating key genes. Lahn’s undertakings have wowed colleagues, one of whom says that it’s his ability to invent clever experimental techniques that lets Lahn single handedly generate "as much data as a medium-sized laboratory." Expect Lahn to take on even bigger projects; he’s just arrived at the University of Chicago to set up his own lab for the first time.