“It’s part of our ethos that technology can and should be a force for good. Our annual list of 35 innovators under 35 is a way of putting faces on that idea,” reads the 2019 award announcement. “This year’s list shows that even in our hard, cynical world, there are still lots of smart people willing to dedicate their lives to the idea that technology can make a safer, fairer world.”
De la Fuente was named in the list’s “Pioneers” category for his work researching antibiotics with a computational approach. Using algorithms, he creates artificial antibiotics to better understand how bacteria will evolve and how scientists can optimize treatments. De la Fuente, who was also recently featured in GEN’s Top 10 Under 40 list, further expands his search for medical solutions by extensively studying a variety of proteins, searching for molecules to develop into antimicrobials.
Included in the honor of being named on the 2019 Innovators List is an invitation for de la Fuente to speak at the EmTech MIT conference in September, an event that reflects on the potential impacts of the year’s biggest developments.
The NAE describes the Frontiers of Engineering program as one that “brings together outstanding early-career engineers from industry, academia, and government to discuss pioneering technical work and leading-edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors. The goal is to facilitate interactions and exchange of techniques and approaches across fields and facilitate networking among the next generation of engineering leaders.”
Bassett and Tsourkas fit the grant’s description, as their proposed research requires them to combine their different areas of expertise to push the state of the art in engineering. The pair plans to engineer a new class of nanoparticles that can sense and differentially react to particular chemicals in their biochemical environment. This new class of nanoparticles could allow scientists to better study cellular processes and could eventually have important applications in medicine, potentially allowing for more personalized diagnoses and targeted treatment of disease.
To design and create this type of nanoparticle is no small task. The research demands Bassett’s background in engineering quantum-mechanical systems for use as environmental sensors, and Tsourkas’ ability to apply these properties to nanoscale “theranostic” agents, which are designed to target treatments based on a patient’s specific diagnostic test results.
By combining forces, Bassett and Tsourkas hope to introduce a new nanoparticle tool into their fields and to connect even more people in their different areas to promote future interdisciplinary work.