David Baker designs new biomolecules (proteins) from first principles to address 21st-century challenges in health and technology.

Why you should listen

David Baker is fascinated by biological self-organization. For example: How does the information stored in DNA translate into the intricate world of proteins and cells? The DNA code was solved more than 50 years ago, but the protein folding code has remained one of biology's greatest challenges. Starting 20 years ago, Baker's research team began using computers to model the structures of proteins. His work has advanced to the point where he can now not only predict the shape of natural proteins but also design completely new ones. In recent years, he's designed new experimental cancer therapies, vaccines, nanomaterials and more. He believes that the emerging field of protein design will fundamentally change how people make medicines, materials and more around the world. Now that the protein folding code is solved, the sky's the limit.

Baker is a Professor of Biochemistry and the Director of the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington in Seattle. He's also an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Adjunct Professor of Genome Sciences, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, and Physics at the UW. With his colleagues, he developed the Rosetta Commons, the Rosetta@Home project and Foldit, a science video game. He has also launched more than ten companies that are seeking to bring designed proteins into the real world.

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