Dr. Francis Barany Named to 2004 "Scientific American 50"

Honored for Contribution to Development of Universal Array, Which Allows for Rapid and Accurate Detection of Cancers and Other Diseases

Nov 8, 2004


Dr. Francis Barany, a scientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, has been named to the 2004 "Scientific American 50"—Scientific American magazine's prestigious annual list recognizing leadership in science and technology from the past year. Dr. Barany is included as "Research Leader in Medical Diagnostics," for his leadership role in the development of a universal array genomic chip that allows for the rapid and accurate detection of cancers and other diseases—especially breast and colon cancer.

The universal array, unlike previous mutation-detection methods of its kind, is the first programmable array—that is, it doesn't require a redesign each time a new gene is discovered. The universal array's unique design involves a ligation primer that guides a fluorescence-labeled sample to the array "address" that denotes a particular disease. Currently, there are matching ligation primers for hundreds of mutations that cause disease. Subsequently, Dr. Barany developed a companion technology known as EndoV/Ligase mutation scanning technology—a tool used to scan DNA sequences and find new mutations. Both technologies are licensed to Applied Biosystems located in Foster City, CA.

According to Dr. Barany, these two technologies are able to detect a mutation in a concentration as little as 1 percent, which is important for real clinical samples where tumor cells are often mixed with a majority of normal cells. This level of sensitivity is impossible to achieve by either DNA sequencing, which requires a concentration of 50 percent, or old-style (non-universal) arrays, which commonly have false positives and negatives.

"As an avid reader of Scientific American since the age of 10, I was honored to be recognized for our work in DNA chips and mutation detection. The true credit belongs to my postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and collaborators, without whom the work would not have been possible," says Dr. Barany, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

"I've never been afraid to collaborate with people smarter than me," says Dr. Barany, whose collaborators include his brother Dr. George Barany (U. Minnesota), as well as Dr. Donald Bergstrom (Purdue), Dr. Eytan Domany (Weizman Institute, Israel), Dr. Alan Friedman (Purdue), Dr. William Gerald (Memorial Sloan-Kettering), Dr. Linnie Golightly (Weill Cornell Medical College), Dr. Robert Hammer (LSU), Dr. Kai Lao (Applied Biosystems), Dr. Davise Larone (Weill Cornell Medical College), Dr. Arnold Levine (UMDNJ), Dr. Daniel Notterman (UMDNJ), Dr. Jurg Ott (Rockefeller U.), Dr. Philip Paty (Memorial Sloan-Kettering), Dr. Steve Soper (LSU), Dr. Thierry Soussi (Institute Curie, Paris), Dr. Eric Spitzer (SUNY at Stony Brook), and Dr. Rob Stengel (Princeton).

Announced today, the "Scientific American 50" appears in the magazine's December issue, arriving on newsstands Nov. 23. The complete list may also be accessed on the magazine's Web site at www.sciam.com. "Scientific American 50" winners will be honored Nov. 16 at a celebration, taking place at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.

In 2003, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who obtained his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in 1966 and interned at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell through 1968, was named to the "Scientific American 50" as a Policy/Medical Treatment Leader for his role in persuading the Bush administration to commit $15 billion to combating AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. Dr. Fauci is currently Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Selected by the magazine's Board of Editors with the help of distinguished outside advisors, the "Scientific American 50" spotlights a Research Leader of the Year, a Business Leader of the Year, and a Policy Leader of the Year. The list also recognizes research, business, and policy leaders in various technological categories—including Agriculture, Chemicals & Materials, Communications, Computing, Energy, Environment, Medical Treatments, and more.

Past "Scientific American 50" winners for 2002 and 2003 have included Roderick MacKinnon, Professor of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics (2003 Research Leader of the Year, as well as winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Chemistry); Burt Rutan, President, Scaled Composites (2003 Aerospace/Business Leader); Gro Harlem Brundtland, former World Health Organization Secretary General (2003 Policy Leader of the Year); Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO, General Electric Company (2002 General Technology/Business Leader); and Steven Jobs, CEO, Apple (2002 Communications/Business Leader).

Founded in 1845, editorial contributors to Scientific American have included more than 100 Nobel laureates—among them Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Francis Crick, Stanley Prusiner, and Harold Varmus. Scientific American is a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, a U.S. subsidiary of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, a privately held international media corporation operating in more than 40 countries. In addition to Scientific American, Holtzbrinck Publishers includes the book publishing houses Farrar, Straus & Giroux; W.H. Freeman; Henry Holt and Company; St. Martin's Press and Tor; the academic scholarly publishing company Palgrave U.S.; the College Publishing Group of Bedford Freeman Worth; and the distribution company VHPS.