Category Archives: Visiting Mentors

J. Craig Venter, One Of The Greatest Scientists Of The 21st Century Will Join Scholars at 2014 Congress of Future Medical Leaders

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., is regarded as one of the leading scientists of the 21st century for his numerous invaluable contributions to genomic research.

He is Founder, Chairman, and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit, research organization with approximately 300 scientists and staff dedicated to human, microbial, plant, synthetic and environmental genomic research, and the exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics.

Dr. Venter is also Founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc (SGI), a privately held company dedicated to commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address global needs such as new sources of energy, new food and nutritional products, and next generation vaccines.

Dr. Venter began his formal education after a tour of duty as a Navy Corpsman in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. After earning both a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego, he was appointed professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. In 1984, he moved to the National Institutes of Health campus where he developed Expressed Sequence Tags or ESTs, a revolutionary new strategy for rapid gene discovery.

In 1992 Dr. Venter founded The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR, now part of JCVI), a not-for-profit research institute, where in 1995 he and his team decoded the genome of the first free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, using his new whole genome shotgun technique.

In 1998, Dr. Venter founded Celera Genomics to sequence the human genome using new tools and techniques he and his team developed. This research culminated with the February 2001 publication of the human genome in the journal, Science. He and his team at Celera also sequenced the fruit fly, mouse and rat genomes.

Dr. Venter and his team at JCVI continue to blaze new trails in genomics. They have sequenced and analyzed hundreds of genomes, and have published numerous important papers covering such areas as environmental genomics, the first complete diploid human genome, and the groundbreaking advance in creating the first self- replicating bacterial cell constructed entirely with synthetic DNA.

Dr. Venter is one of the most frequently cited scientists, and the author of more than 250 research articles. He is also the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, public honors, and scientific awards, including the 2008 United States National Medal of Science, the 2002 Gairdner Foundation International Award, the 2001 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize and the King Faisal International Award for Science. Dr. Venter is a member of numerous prestigious scientific organizations including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Society for Microbiology.

Special Messege For Scholars From Andrey Sushko, Age 18 Inventor, Intel Science Talent Search 2012 Finalist

As some of you may observe, I’ve always been more of a physicist than a physician. One thing I’ve noticed is that cutting edge physics very quickly becomes cutting edge medicine. Just look at MRI, phytotron emission, tomography, ultrasound, and so on.

Another thing to notice is that the things I mentioned are primarily imaging techniques. What happens if we actually need to do something inside the body? Then, barring a few more exotic approaches, we’re left with trying drugs or physically cutting open the patient.

My research is focused around technologies that could, in the long term, create a third option. By studying and exploiting the behavior of surfaces between fluids, such as the surface at the top of a glass of water, it may be possible to create micrometer-scale motors, generators that extract energy from a fluid flow, such as the flow of blood through a vessel, and miniature chemical analysis systems, such as those found in recently developed lab-on-a-chip devices.

Furthermore, it may even be possible to integrate all of these systems, along with complex control circuitry, on a single tiny chip using manufacturing techniques very similar to those already in use by the semiconductor industry. Add some passive radiofrequency communications and some very sophisticated equipment on the outside, and it should be possible to effectively print thousands of independently controllable, mostly autonomous, millimeter-sized robots.

These could then be introduced into the body in a variety of ways and used to monitor chemical indicators, conduct and analyze site-specific biopsies, potentially even deliver drugs or kill cells based on specific chemical markers.

Of course, at this stage, it’s still very hard for me to gauge the practicality nor the potential of this approach. I’d be very interested in hearing what you, who probably have a much greater knowledge of medicine than I can ever claim, might think about this.

That’s all from me for now. I really look forward to talking with many of you in February. See you all in Washington.

Message For Scholars From Raina Jain, Age 19, Youngest Ever Winner of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

Hi. My name is Raina Jain, and I’m a 2010 winner of the Sanofi Aventis International BioGENeius challenge.  My research focused on the use of bioglass, an incredible type of glass that can help regenerate new bone in the body over time.  Specifically, I was looking at how surface roughness of bioglass could enhance cell fusion, proliferation, and differentiation, so patients could experience faster bone growth and recovery after their surgeries.

I’m so excited to joint you all at the 2014 Congress of Future Medical Leaders, so we can all gain from discussion on the evolving field of medicine, and how we can all individually contribute to this evolution.  I am fortunate enough  to directly experience the bridge between research and medicine, and I’ve seen how important it is for the translational steps to be made.  The two fields of research and medicine are tightly intertwined, and each one relies heavily on the other.

Once, when I was at a science competition, a judge approached me after I was done presenting, and asked me further questions about bioglass.  It turns out that she herself had a titanium implant that had already been repeatedly replaced over the past few years.  She asked me more questions about bioglass as a potential alternative to the titanium implant that already failed her multiple times.  And it was then that I realized how important research can be. 

As we all prepare for the Congress, I have a few questions to ask you all.  What do you guys see as the main problems or challenges in the fields of medicine and in science, and how do you see us as a society approaching these problems?  What do you think you, individually, can help bring to overcoming these challenges.  I’m so excited to see your responses.  Please post them online, and we’ll definitely take a look.  I’m really excited to see you all next year as well.  So I’ll see you then.  Bye.

A Special Messege For Scholars From Janelle Tam, Age 17, 2012 National Winner of the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada

Hi, my name is Janelle Tam, and I am last year’s national winner of the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada. My research was on the use of nanocrystalline cellulose, nanoparticles from trees, as an antioxidant agent that can neutralize the highly reactive atoms, known as “free radicals” that have been linked to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m incredibly exited to come speak at the Congress of Future Medical Leaders, and get to meet some of the brightest young medical minds in the nation, you guys.

The future of medicine, especially medical research, is extremely bright. Scientists are making unprecedented progress in the labs, developing technologies we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago.

Nanotechnology, the science of things in the scale of 10 to the negative 9 meters, is a particularly exciting new frontier, simply because there is so much yet to be discovered. Everything changes at such a small scale, opening up new opportunities to use nanotechnology to revolutionize medicine. For example, therapies using nanoparticles for targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells will help to drastically reduce the amount of negative side effects of conventional chemotherapy treatments. That’s just one example of the incredibly exiting opportunities that lie in store.

Furthermore, my hope is that we’ll also be able to find environmentally friendly solutions to these problems, so we can benefit humanity, without hurting our earth. We will be the ones responsible for continuing this legacy of discovery and development of better treatments and technologies for the future in order to fight to defeat disease, because we are the future.

 I’m really looking forward to joining you on this journey towards the medical field. I’ll be starting this fall at Princeton University in the pre-medicine track, studying Molecular Biology, and hopefully with a minor or certificate in Global Health Policy.

I’ll be walking alongside you on this road. I can’t wait to see all of your good-looking faces in Washington.

Message For Scholars From Brittany Wenger, Age 18, Grand Prize Winner Of The 2012 Google Science Search

I am so excited to be one of the speakers at the Congress of Future Medical Leaders, because, as cliché as it sounds, we are the future,

Everybody who’s sitting in that room has the potential to become a huge person in the medical field who’s really making the breakthroughs that can save lives.

To me, it’s exciting that this Congress is bringing us all together so that we can make those connections and truly get to meet some of the people that are going to be our colleagues for the rest of our lives.

I think medicine is such an exciting field, because it’s truly a field where you can make a difference. You can save lives, and you can engineer technologies and create treatments that are going to make the world better for all of us to live in.

Right now, especially, I think medicine is on the verge of one of the most exciting decades it’s ever going to have. You see, we live in this information age, and now, more than ever before, we as future researchers, as future doctors are going to be able to search and find whatever we want, so we can truly merge multiple disciplines and come up with innovative solutions to some of the field’s most pressing problems.

In addition, the world is connected like never before. So in terms of research, that means we can get results, we can lean about patients that are cross-continental, and that’s truly going to open the field to so many new discoveries.

I can’t wait to be able to come talk to you guys and meet you in person. My particular talk is going to be focused on passion, inspiration and perseverance, and how, if we come together as a community, we have the power to make some of the most exciting breakthroughs and to truly work together to create an exciting future for all of us to live in. I believe that through hard work, we could be the generation that finally finds the cures to cancers.

I can’t wait to meet you. I’m really looking forward to February.

By then, I will be a Duke freshman, and I’m going to be on the pre-medical track. So this especially is close to my heart because I’m a future medical leader as well. Anyways, I’ll see you soon.

Bye.