Alum Wins High Honor for Young Innovators

MIT Tech Review names Tetsuhiro Harimoto PhD’22 to its 2023 class of Innovators Under 35.

Sep 12 2023 | By Grant Currin
Tetsuhiro Harimoto

MIT Tech Review named Columbia Engineering alum Tetsuhiro Harimoto PhD’22 to the publication’s annual list of the world’s top innovators under 35 years old. Harimoto was a member of Tal Danino’s Synthetic Biological Systems Laboratory, where he began genetically programming bacteria that naturally exist in tumors.

He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

“My research aims to program microbes as intelligent, living medicine that can detect and treat cancer,” Harimoto explained. His work in drug delivery improves on state-of-the-art treatments such as chemotherapy and biologics, which are unstable and often toxic to healthy cells and tissues. 

Harimoto has developed a number of key synthetic biology technologies to advance microbial therapy for clinical translation. His work involved programming bacteria to express protective coatings, enabling them to efficiently reach tumors. He has designed bacteria that autonomously sense biochemical environments and programmed them to only survive when they encounter tumors. His research has led to the discovery of new therapies by testing myriads of therapeutics on a novel model for bacteria-tumor interactions in a dish.

Harimoto’s work in this new field of living medicine has led to multiple patents, publications in several leading journals, and clinical trials that may pave the way for an entirely new set of tools for treating cancer. 

Each year, MIT Tech Review’s Innovators Under 35 list singles out 35 outstanding innovators spanning a wide range of fields, from biotechnology to energy and communications to transportation. The list recognizes the development of new technology or the creative application of existing technologies to solve the world’s biggest problems.

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