Napoleone Ferrara, of the University of California, San Diego, is best known for isolating and cloning vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). He then built the humanized monoclonal antibody against VEGF that led to the blockbuster drugs Avastin (for treating cancer) and Lucentis (for treating wet age-related macular degeneration).
Tony Fauci is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the NIH. His work on HIV is at the forefront of infectious disease research, and he is the leader of the national discussion of infectious disease pandemics — the science behind them, the economy, the policy, and the politics that are also intertwined with them.
The biochemist P. Roy Vagelos is best known for leading Merck for 20 years, first as President of research and then later as CEO and Chairman of the Board. In his time at Merck, he revolutionized the way the company approached drug discovery, introduced the first statins to market, and organized the donation of ivermectin, the agent for control of river blindness, to any and all who need it for as long as it is needed.
Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has revolutionized the way that we think about microbiology. She elucidated the chemical language that bacteria use to communicate through a process called quorum sensing that allows bacteria to count their numbers, determine when they’ve reached a critical mass, and then change their behavior in unison to result in virulence or even bioluminescence. Called everything from a [MacArthur] genius to the bacteria whisperer, Bassler also excels at the art of scientific communication, has dabbled in theater, and many mornings a week leads an aerobics class in Princeton.
After a 15-year focus on the biology of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) family, the modern-day microbe hunter Don Ganem turned his attention to KSHV, the herpes virus that is the cause of the AIDS-related neoplasm Kaposi sarcoma (KS). His lab at UCSF was the first to cultivate and develop tests for KSHV. In 2010, after nearly 30 years in academia, Ganem left for industry and is currently the Vice President and Global Head for Infectious Disease for the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. View the full interview for many more stories about flunking algebra to hold hands with a girl, what Martians with golf clubs can teach you about drawing conclusions, and taking a turn as Dr. Dolittle.