Local Student Is Among World's 100 Leading Young Inventors

Yaakov Benenson, a doctoral student at the Weizmann Institute of Science, has been chosen as one of the 100 leading young inventors and entrepreneurs in the world today.

The list was composed by an international panel of judges and the Technology Review, a magazine published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. It includes people under the age of 35, whose work in developing innovative technology may shape our lives in the future. Benenson is the first Israeli to be included in the list.

Benenson began working at the laboratory of Prof. Ehud Shapira at the Weizmann Institute in 1999, at age 24. He took part in developing methods for carrying out calculations using DNA molecules and various enzymes. The process of molecular calculation is intended for use in diagnosing and treating various types of disease, including cancer.

Benenson himself recounts how he joined Shapira's team after reading a newspaper article in which the professor described his vision of molecular computers, which would operate according to the calculation method of the "Turing machine," and would be able to perform different operations and even act as molecular "doctors" inside living cells.

"At the time this vision was just a general idea, bordering on science fiction. I began contemplating the possibilities of realizing the idea, and reached the conclusion that it was not science fiction after all," he recounts.

The research has indeed succeeded in creating the world's smallest molecular computer. The device has recently been upgraded and can now detect molecular signals that point to the development of cancer cells in a test tube, and can release a molecule that halts the cancerous process. It is this research which has earned Benenson a place on the list.