Dari Shalon, 34
The microscope. The X-ray machine. PCR.Every once in a while, a technology comes along that transforms the way biologists see the world. The latest in this lineage is the DNA chip: a combination of chemistry, imaging equipment and genetics that allows scientists to peer into a cell and measure the activity of its genes, tens of thousands at a time. Within a few years of their debut, DNA chips have transformed genome research and sped up the search for new drugs. This process wouldn’t have happened as fast without the work of technologist/entrepreneurs such as Dari Shalon. In 1992, as a Stanford PhD student, Shalon co-invented a type of DNA chip--and immediately saw its commercial potential. Shalon beat competitors to the punch with a clever business plan in which his startup firm, named Synteni, did experiments on the cheap for customers rather than selling them big costly systems. The rest is history. Synteni was a smash hit, and was soon bought out by Palo Alto, Calif., gene giant Incyte Pharmaceuticals.
Recently, Shalon’s mix of scientific, technological and business acumen landed him the director’s post at Harvard’s Center for Genomics Research, a new multimillion dollar hub for multidisciplinary life sciences research. Shalon says he’s working to build "a strong intellectual community [that] integrates research in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and medicine." This eclectic enterprise, Shalon predicts, will be "a powerhouse" ininventing eye-opening new genomics technologies.