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MIT Technology Review

35 Innovators Under 35

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  • John Santini

    29

    John Santini knows all about managing chronic illnesses; he was diagnosed with lupus at age 12 and has been taking daily medication since. Small wonder he chose to pursue drug delivery technology. Today Santini is chief scientific officer of MicroChips, which he cofounded in 1999 to make pills and injections obsolete. The Cambridge, MA, company is developing an implantable chip that stores drugs and releases them at a programmed rate. Santini devised the technology as an MIT grad student. A dime-sized, surgically replaceable chip can hold several hundred single-dose drug reservoirs. Patients could control the chip’s microprocessor remotely—a benefit for, say, patients taking pain medications. MicroChips recently began testing the chip with an undisclosed drug. Santini’s technology could be ideal for delivering new protein drugs. Most proteins must be injected into the bloodstream because they are too fragile to survive the digestive system. But an implanted chip could replace such injections. And with the sequencing of the human genome, Santini says, “There’s going to be an explosion in protein compounds in the next five to 10 years.”