Kumar, an associate professor of chemistry, was recognized for his protein design and engineering research, particularly his work on 'decorating' proteins with Teflon-like materials that make them potentially useful for a variety of medical purposes, such as drug delivery and the design of new antibiotics.
He will be honored Sept. 24 - 25 at The Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT.
The 100 innovators are being recognized for their contributions to transforming the nature of technology in industries such as biotechnology, computing, energy, medicine, manufacturing, nanotechnology, telecommunications and transportation.
"We're pleased to see Krishna Kumar recognized as one of the world's top young innovators for his groundbreaking research on protein design," said Susan Ernst, dean of Tufts' School of Arts and Sciences.
Kumar is also the recipient of the 2003 DuPont Young Professor Grant - one of only seven faculty in the country to receive the honor this year. The Young Professor Grants are intended to encourage highly original research and to help recipients begin their academic research career.
"Kumar's research is breaking the barriers that have prevented scientists from designing proteins for important medical and chemical applications," said Jamshed Bharucha, provost and senior vice president.
He received a National Science Foundation Career Award in 2002, and is an associate member of the Cancer Center at the Tufts-New England Medical Center. His research focuses on novel methods for the rational design and construction of artificial proteins, molecular enzymes and self-assembling biomaterials. His group is also investigating how modern-day enzymes evolved from primordial peptides.
Kumar's research team is designing stable proteins in an atom-by-atom design that provides the blueprint for a particular structure and function. They use amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- with unnatural "side chains" to build proteins with properties not found in nature. For example, Kumar's group has incorporated fluorocarbons - the same material found in Teflon - into proteins to make them "non-stick." These materials have numerous potential medical uses, including the design of new antibiotics, high-temperature catalysts, drug-delivery portals on human cell membranes, and structural templates for "nanotechnology" - building consumer goods such as computers on a molecular level by piecing together individual atoms.
"Innovation and technological change are essential to worldwide economic growth," said Robert Buderi, editor-in-chief of Technology Review. "Now, more than ever, it's important to recognize that there is no one technology driving the next wave of success, but rather several that, when fused together, will create another era of significant change for our society. The members of this year's TR100 hail from fields such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, wireless, energy, computing and medicine. Each is actively developing the emerging technologies that we feel will profoundly impact our world in the century ahead."
The Emerging Technologies Conference will feature keynotes, panels and breakout discussions on the transformative technological innovations that have the potential to fuel new economic growth and dramatically change the future. Speakers include Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computer Corporation; Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman of the board and CEO of General Electric; Bob Metcalfe, founder of 3Com Corporation and general partner at Polaris Venture Partners; and Nathan Myhrvold, Ph.D., managing director of Intellectual Ventures and former CTO of Microsoft Corporation. More information on ETC2003 can be found at www.etc2003.com.
Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the University's eight schools is widely encouraged.