Magazine article Foreign Policy

The Healers

Magazine article Foreign Policy

The Healers

Article excerpt

Many of these Global Thinkers racked up firsts: developing some of the first tools to combat Ebola, devising the first successful method to keep transplant hearts viable without putting them on ice, and replicating human organs so that, for the first time, animals might not be needed for medical testing. Other Global Thinkers, meanwhile, went back to basics-or even ancient history; digging in the dirt to find new antibiotics, for instance, and working to revive the woolly mammoth. Yet they were all on a shared quest to protect and improve the world's health.

GEORGE CHURCH

GENETICIST

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.

FOR RESURRECTING THE WOOLLY MAMMOTH.

The last woolly mammoths died around 4,000 years ago, but Harvard University geneticist George Church has taken a step toward what has been heretofore confined to Jurassic Park: de-extinction. Using CRISPR, a gene-editing technique, Church and his team spliced mammoth ear, fat, and hair genes into elephant DNA, creating the basis for a hybrid that may one day wander the frozen north, just as its ancestors did. That prospect isn't without controversy-the editors of Scientific American wrote, "[W]ith limited intellectual band width and financial resources to go around, de-extinction threatens to divert attention from the modern biodiversity crisis"-but Church argues that de-extinction isn't a "one-off stunt." As he wrote in the same magazine, "The goal is to adapt existing ecosystems to radical modern environmental changes, such as global warming, and possibly reverse those changes."

ROBERT GARRY; ALEXANDER BUKREYEV & MICHELLE MEYER

IMMUNOLOGIST; PATHOLOGISTS

NEW ORLEANS; GALVESTON, TEXAS

FOR RACING TO STOP THE NEXT EPIDEMIC.

The world is better armed to combat Ebola thanks to three scientists in the southern United States. Robert Garry, a Tulane University immunologist, was a lead investigator in the creation of a rapid Ebola test, approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization last winter. Unlike existing diagnostics, which take hours or days to deliver results, the new finger-prick blood test works in 15 to 25 minutes.

Alexander Bukreyev and Michelle Meyer, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch, published findings demonstrating that a vaccine had protected monkeys from Ebola. Its major advantage over other immunizations in development is that it's an aerosol, which would end the need to stick patients with needles. Next up: human clinical trials.

MOSOKA FALLAH

EPIDEMIOLOGIST

LIBERIA

FOR KEEPING THE FIGHT AGAINST EBOLA ALIVE.

The week of Oct. 4 was the first in a year and a half in which the World Health Organization recorded no new cases of Ebola in West Africa. But for Mosoka Fallah--an epidemiologist who spent the worst days of the outbreak tracking infections in West Point, the Liberian slum where he grew up-the crisis isn't over. Fallah is a principal investigator in a new study that's part of a joint Liberia-U.S. research project, the Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL). The goal of the five-year study, which began in June, is to understand Ebola's aftermath: whether survivors become immune to the virus, for example, and whether they can still transmit it to close contacts through sex. With plans to enroll 1,500 survivors, it is the largest-ever Ebola study of its kind.

WALEED HASSANEIN

PRESIDENT AND CEO, TRANSMEDICS

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. …

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