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MIT Technology Review

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  • Matthew DeLisa

    Age:
    32

    Each year, billions of dollars worth of drugs, from insulin for diabetics to the stroke drug tPA, are made in huge vats full of microbes engineered to produce human proteins. The process is both inefficient and enormously expensive. Matthew DeLisa, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, was the first scientist to use a twin arginine translocation (Tat) pathway to produce human proteins. This should mean cleaner proteins and longer-lived cultures. DeLisa is also modifying bacteria to improve each step in protein production. His focus, he says, is “the engineering of biological machines to tackle problems that nature itself cant do.” Until recently, the biotech industry focused on changing the growth environment for bacteria to boost protein productivity, but DeLisa is supercharging production by going inside the cell itself. For example, hes replacing key parts of the bacterias protein-making machinery with components from higher organisms to produce finely tuned miniature drug factories.