At 22, Patrick Hsu has accomplished more than most people his age. During his doctoral training in the Molecules, Cells, and Organisms program under Xiaowei Zhuang in the Department of Chemistry and Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute, Hsu harnessed a bacterial immune system known as CRISPR and the protein Cas9 to edit DNA with incredible accuracy. And as a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute, he worked to translate this revolutionary technology for human gene therapy. In recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments and research, Forbes Magazine named Hsu one of 2015’s 30 Scientists Under 30.
“I’m honored to be on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and I’m grateful to all my colleagues and mentors who nominated me,” Hsu said. “One of the great pleasures in life, in my view, is learning from smart people. Discovery and science is a team endeavor, so this just makes me very proud of everyone I’ve been lucky to work with.”
Nominated by his co-advisor Feng Zhang as well as friends and colleagues through social media and Forbes’ website, Hsu was chosen by a panel of distinguished judges including Max Tegmark, an associate professor at MIT; Bahija Jallal, executive vice president of biotech company AstraZeneca’s MedImmune division; and Jennifer Doudna, a University of California at Berkeley cell biologist and a leading CRISPR researcher. “I feel very fortunate to have had Patrick as a collaborator over the past few years,” said Zhang. “His sharpness, creativity, and thoughtfulness belied the fact that he is only 22 years old.”
CRISPR research is becoming increasingly popular in the fields of biology and biotechnology, and it has broad implications ranging from expanding our understanding of basic biology to developing a new generation of medical therapeutics—Hsu’s interest. “It is allowing us to push genome engineering technologies to modify genes and cells in innovative ways,” said Hsu, who recently completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the Broad Institute.
Now at a biotech startup—Editas Medicine—founded by Zhang and Harvard faculty members George Church, David Liu, and Keith Joung, Hsu is leading several early stage discovery projects to translate CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technologies to treat human genetic and cellular diseases. “The idea is to perform precise and corrective molecular modifications that correct a disease mutation and replace it with healthy sequence,” he said. “This will allow us to develop therapeutic strategies that address the root cause and not just the symptoms of disease.”