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MIT Technology Review

35 Innovators Under 35

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  • Stephen Quake

    32

    The biotech industry dreams of automating millions of biological experiments on mass-produced chips. Colleagues say Steve Quake has the creativity, intellect and ambition to make it happen. When Quake was a Stanford University postdoc, he investigated the behavior of biological polymers. After becoming a Caltech professor he developed his first micro-fabricated tools, which use electric fields to sort cells and manipulate DNA molecules. Soon thereafter, Quake used soft lithography to build the first set of microvalves and pumps practical enough to be mass-produced, a key step toward developing the hotly anticipated chips. In 1999,Quake and some former college buddies founded San Francisco-based Fluidigm to supply his patented equipment and intellectual property to life science and pharmaceutical companies. Fluidigm has received $50 million in capital and recently signed a deal to supply GlaxoSmithKline.Now a tenured professor, Quake divides his time between researching the structure and function of proteins and devising more-sophisticated microfluidic tools.