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David Ho

AIDS Research Pioneer

There had been an old dogma in the field that HIV comes in and after this acute phase that looks like flu, there's a prolonged dormancy. The virus wasn't doing much and the person is pretty well. And, we know that because we now know that period could be about ten years. And, somehow we realized that during this period the person's immune system is gradually dwindling and I didn't necessarily like the notion that -- we knew the patient is well -- but I didn't necessarily like the notion that the virus is dormant. And, for a long period of time my research effort is to measure the virus, to quantify the virus. I would say that's a decade long effort, having been one of the first to measure how much virus there is, and then very gradually demonstrating that the old notion is incorrect.
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David Ho

AIDS Research Pioneer

The protease structure had been studied for a long time. Particularly in the late '80s we realized what it looked like three dimensionally, and there's a cavity in the middle. And inside that cavity are the enzymatic sites, or the cutting sites. And so, the big proteins could come and sit in this groove and then be cut. Well it was easy to think that if you could fill that cavity with a small chemical so the proteins could not be cut. And so many, many groups started to try to fill that cavity with small chemicals, and there were rationally designed chemicals -- as well as chemicals that were done by a more empirical screening process -- that would fill this cavity. And so, what protease inhibitors are is simply something that would gum up the chemicals. So now HIV could not cut its proteins, and so it makes that progeny, and therefore it can't spread the infection. As long as the patient is taking the drug, it can't spread the infection. So it's now kept in control.
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Susan Hockfield

President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

I got to glioma by a bit of an experimental accident and by a certain amount of luck, fortuitousness. My husband's a neuro-oncologist, and I remember one Saturday afternoon we were sitting around around lunchtime and he had been reviewing, I think, the galleys of a review paper he was writing that included some fabulous images of real gliomas in real patients, and I in the meantime, was puzzling over some work that had just come out of my lab. We were trying to get our hands on the gene for a protein that I can describe in detail, but, in any case, we had found a gene. My post-doc, Diane Jaworski, had actually found a gene that we were pretty sure wasn't the gene we were looking for, but had some very interesting properties. And one of its interesting properties was that it was expressed when the glial cells in the brain were just beginning to develop. They were dividing and beginning to move to their adult positions. And my husband was working on his glioma review paper, and I was looking at this peculiar data, and we were talking to one another in the midst of this, and he looked at me and he said, "Well, you should look at that gene in glioma." Which we then did, and discovered that this gene is expressed by every glioma, virtually every glioma sample that we tested, and we went on to provide good evidence that this particular gene is part of the mechanism that allows glioma to do this terrible thing, which is invade normal tissue. The gene produces several different protein forms, one that's expressed on the glial cells as they're developing, but in a different form that is very selective for glioma. And so the last project in my lab, while I was in the lab, was exploring this particular gene and its protein products as a possible diagnostic and therapeutic target for glioma.
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Susan Hockfield

President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The other program we started when I was Dean was a lecture series called "In the Company of Scholars." Jonathan Spence gave a lecture yesterday morning -- he's a historian of China. Arguably, certainly, the nation's best Chinese historian. So I had a thought. I was walking down the street one day. Remember, I was in the Neurobiology Department in the Medical School -- I knew the name Jonathan Spence -- and I walked by the Yale bookstore and there was a display of his most recent book. And I looked at the book and I thought, "You know, if Jonathan Spence passed me on the street, I wouldn't recognize him, because as a neurobiologist I know many of the neurobiologists. I don't know any of these historians." And it struck me that this is another necessary consequence of graduate education being narrow and deep. Necessary, but not exclusionary. And so I started -- I and my colleague started -- this program "In the Company of Scholars," where three times a semester I would invite a faculty member from science, the humanities or the social sciences to give a lecture to the graduate school community. The graduate school at Yale had 2,200 students and roughly 600, 700 faculty were affiliated with the graduate school. So these lectures were expressly for the graduate community: graduate students, faculty in the graduate school. And the charge I gave to each of the faculty speakers was, "Tell us about your topic, but in a way that an intelligent person from another discipline can understand it." Well, this became a wonderfully exciting series of lectures. Of course, the first person I invited to give the lecture "In the Company of Scholars" was Jonathan Spence, and he gave a magnificent lecture. And I don't know, there were over 100 people in the audience, and then we had a reception afterward. And as I went from group to group around the reception, they were talking about the lecture, and that continued, as I said, three times a semester. It was a wonderful way of bringing the graduate community together, and giving students and faculty an opportunity to hear from the masters outside of their own disciplines.
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Susan Hockfield

President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

My predecessor, Chuck Vest, convened a group of faculty to think about how MIT should approach distance education. So this very extraordinary group of faculty went off and thought about it and came back and the report was "Oh, we've looked at it every possible way and we've concluded that you can't make money at it, so we should give it all away for free." And so MIT embarked on what has become Open Courseware, and it is a really quite remarkable force for the democratization of education. We get emails from people all over the world who have used it and describing how it's changed their lives. Then, when I arrived, there was information coming from people who had used the site, and we discovered that there were a lot of high school students and teachers using it. And there were faculty and staff at MIT who were anxious to provide an Open Courseware opportunity that would be actually targeted to high school students and teachers, and I encouraged that development, because I think it's so important. I think that there are a lot of students who have interests in the kinds of things MIT does -- science and engineering -- and yet because of a paucity of educational materials or educational insight, while they're in high school, lose that passion. And it's very important for our nation that we help those young people understand just how wonderfully exciting and rewarding advanced science and engineering are, and how important it is for them to keep their interests focused, and graduate from high school, and then aspire to study science and engineering at the college level.
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Reid Hoffman

Internet Entrepreneur

Reid Hoffman: When I was thinking about public intellectuals and the kind of classic -- as an author of essays and books -- I realized that that's in some sense an old school form of media, right? Which is to say, there's other forms of media and that media is to some degree the form that public intellectuals can operate in. And I said, "Well, actually software is transforming the world. And there's all kinds of different ways that software affects how we think of ourselves, how we communicate, how we form an image of how the world works, and how we connect with each other. And so I was like, "Well, I haven't ever really thought about being a business person." And by the way, even being an entrepreneur at that time, if you said, "You will be an entrepreneur," it was like, "Oh, I guess." It was only years after I'd started LinkedIn -- which was kind of the third start up -- I was like, "Oh yes, entrepreneur is a word that describes me." Like, I understand that that's a word that applies to me, but that wasn't like my goal was to be an entrepreneur. What I realized is that actually creating software products could actually have the similar kind of public intellectual impact. And if it didn't have as much of an impact as I'd like, maybe I could make enough money that I could then not need to fund myself through -- I could essentially not need a salary and so, therefore, I could become a public intellectual writing myself. And so it was kind of a plan A and a plan B.
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Reid Hoffman

Internet Entrepreneur

Reid Hoffman: So what we would do -- the business model for PayPal would be is that we would charge people for taking credit card payments and that we would essentially be their merchant of record, even though So usually as a merchant you establish your own relationship with a bank. By being a master merchant, we would have merchants who were not large enough to establish a relationship with a bank, but actually would have a direct relationship with PayPal. And PayPal would have the relationship with the bank. The second day, because Max, Peter, and I were, "Well, if this blows up, we're going to have one of the spectacular Silicon Valley failures on our hands." So we might as well do our next business together. So let's each of us talk and say, "What is our best alternative idea?" and the early germinations of LinkedIn -- some early components were one of the things I was working on. Because I had concluded from SocialNet that actually in fact, your professional identity was really important. It had an effect of what your economic opportunity was. That everyone should have a public professional identity. It would help transform their work life, whether or not they're an employee, or an entrepreneur, or a lawyer. All these things that having an identity would be really important. And that this could be a driver for how you lived and worked your work life. And so that was the idea I presented. And then PayPal worked out and so, actually, I didn't go back and think about that idea until after we sold PayPal to eBay. I was like, "Well, what do I want to do next?" Because I now had what I was calling my ransom, which was enough money, a salary, so I could go back to being a public intellectual and writing books or something if I wanted to do that.
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Reid Hoffman

Internet Entrepreneur

I realized the pattern of the consumer Internet company was something that was actually just beginning. Like the Silicon Valley had gone -- the typical pattern for Silicon Valley is you all run to one technology trend and call it networking equipment or enterprise software or clean tech software. And you all do that, and then you run to the next one. And so they had all thought consumer net was over. And I was like, "No, no, it's just beginning and there is decades of interesting companies and work here. And I would like to participate in those. I would like to invest in them. I would like to create them. I think one could have a massive change of the world through these companies." And so I invested in such companies as Friendster and Facebook and Flickr and a number of others, Zynga. And then I started LinkedIn. And that was because this whole notion of how networks can be a platform for identity and for applications that help us navigate the world in a much better way. That was what I had started this whole thing -- you know, my whole path in the Silicon Valley with. And now was at least a time, if not the time to really do that.
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