Technology Review , a magazine published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has named Kelvin H. Lee, assistant professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University, among the "World's Top 100 Young Innovators in Technology and Business".
Nominees are recognized for their contribution in transforming the nature of technology in such areas as biotechnology, computing, energy, medicine, manufacturing, nanotechnology, telecommunications and transportation. The awards for the "2002 Innovator of the Year" and "Technology in the Service of Humanity" will be announced during a ceremony May 23 at Kresge Auditorium on the MIT Boston campus.
The ceremony will conclude a conference, "The Innovation Economy: How Technology is Transforming Existing Businesses and Creating New Ones." Nominees were chosen from the United States, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Japan and Singapore.
Technology Review cited Lee for his development of a protein analysis that allows early diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, and one of its human versions, sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Previously, diagnosing the diseases with certainty was possible only by taking a brain biopsy after death. Both the cattle and the human disease are the result of a disruptive protein, called a prion, causing healthy proteins in the brain to misfold.
During postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology in 1996, Lee identiÞed a diagnostic marker protein for sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and developed the diagnosis in a live subject. Lee's technique involves simultaneously analyzing the 2,000 proteins that exist in human spinal ßuid to pick out the telltale compound. In 1997 he conÞrmed that the prion also appears in BSE-afßicted cattle.
Clinical versions of the tests are now being applied in the United States and Europe. However, there is, as yet, no confirmation of whether the same marker characterizes a newer form of the human disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. However, Lee's team recently identiÞed other protein indicators that might prove fruitful. Lee is director of the Cornell Proteomics Program, which is concerned with the study of proteins as products of gene expression. The term proteome refers to the protein complement of the genome. Lee and his colleagues also are working on a marker protein test for Alzheimer's disease.
Lee earned his B.S.E. at Princeton University in 1991 and his M.S. at the California Institute of Technology in 1993. Caltech also awarded him a Ph.D. in 1995. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1997.