Matthew Shair, 31
Matthew Shair makes and studies complex molecules at an extraordinary rate. His research is an engine driving important discoveries at Harvard’s new Institute for Chemistry and Cell Biology (ICCB), an interdisciplinary collaboration that teams chemists, biologists and medical school faculty with industry researchers. Shair’s molecule-making technique is called split-pool organic synthesis, an iterative process that requires highly skilled chemistry and yields vast numbers of distinct, manmade compounds that are as complex as anything found in nature.
Shair’s talent surfaced early. As a postdoc in the lab of ICCB director Stuart Schreiber, he spearheaded a project that generated more than two million compounds. Those molecules are a critical enabler of "chemical genetics," a new paradigm for rapidly analyzing the functions of newly isolated genes. "Matthew is on his way to establishing a breakaway research program," says Schreiber.Merck and other corporations contribute heavily to ICCB to see early results from this work. Their bets are not misplaced.