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Protein designers get a $45 million boost

David Baker and Neil King
University of Washington biochemists David Baker and Neil King show off molecular models of proteins at UW’s Institute for Protein Design. (UW IPD Photo / Ian Haydon)

The era of engineering proteins for medical applications just got a lot closer, thanks to a five-year, $45 million grant from The Audacious Project at TED to the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The institute, headed by UW biochemist David Baker, is among eight recipients of Audacious grants announced today at the annual TED conference in Vancouver, B.C.

“We’re really thinking of this as a protein design revolution, parallel to the digital revolution at Bell Labs. … If you can design proteins exactly to order from first principles, you can solve a lot of problems that are facing humans today — primarily in medicine, but also in materials and energy,” Baker told GeekWire.

Among the potential products are a universal flu vaccinenon-addictive painkillers, smart proteins capable of identifying and treating cancer cells or the out-of-control cells that cause autoimmune disorders, potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders and self-assembling proteins for solar cells or nanofabrication.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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