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Hao Yan    

Director of the Center for Molecular Design & Biomimetics Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University; Created Nanobots to Fight Cancer

For close to two decades, Hao Yan has been conducting research on DNA origami: the science of folding strands of DNA—a thousandth the width of a human hair—into intelligent nanobots that can perform tasks whose possible impact on the world belies their tiny size. While the technology has many potential applications, Yan has focused on one with with particular promise: combatting cancer by sending bots into the bloodstream to starve cancerous cells without endangering healthy ones. A joint venture between ASU and China’s National Center for Nanotechnology and Science, the exploration Yan leads has shown early promise in tests with mice, where it doubled their cancer survival rate. He believes that cancer-fighting bots may be capable of helping humans within four to five years, and has cofounded an early-stage startup, Nanobot Biosciences, to help commercialize his work.

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