The 20 un­der 40: In­side the next gen­er­a­tion of bio­phar­ma lead­ers

“Each gen­er­a­tion needs a new mu­sic,” Fran­cis Crick wrote in 1988, re­flect­ing back on his land­mark dis­cov­ery. Crick was 35, then, in 1953, when he be­gan work­ing with a 23-year-old named James Wat­son, and 37 when the pair un­veiled the dou­ble he­lix. Ros­alind Franklin, whose dif­frac­tion work un­der­gird­ed their met­al mod­el, was 32.

The mod­el would be­come the score for a new era in bi­ol­o­gy, one de­vot­ed to crack­ing the ba­sic struc­tures turn­ing in­side life. Sub­se­quent years would bring new con­duc­tors and new rhythms: Robert Swan­son, 29 when he con­vinced a 39-year-old Herb Boy­er to build a com­pa­ny off his work and call it Genen­tech; Phillip Sharp, 29 when he dis­cov­ered RNA splic­ing and 34 when he co-found­ed Bio­gen; Frances Arnold, 36 when she pi­o­neered di­rect­ed evo­lu­tion; Feng Zhang, 31 when he pub­lished his CRISPR pa­per.

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