Alexander Lopez, 29
Associate Manager, Sequencing & Lab Operations, Regeneron Genetics Center
The mission is lofty at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ shiny new Tarrytown subsidiary, the Regeneron Genetics Center: “to improve patient outcomes by identifying... genomic biomarkers for pharmacogenomics applications.” Critical to reaching that goal is 29-year-old Alexander Lopez, who can explain to our science-starved minds what in the world genomics actually is: “A science wherein we try to better understand the human genetic code…and where mutations within our genetic code occur…to target those mutations within certain genes and see if we can create cures.” Sound complicated? Try being the one who manages day-to-day operations at the genomics-sequencing lab. Regeneron plucked Lopez from the Yale School of Medicine in 2013 to do just that. (Lopez was an instrumental part of Yale’s effort to build its own genetics center.) Today he oversees a team sequencing DNA samples at a rate of 50,000 per year.
• Lopez grew up in a single-parent home and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 with a degree in molecular and cellular biology.
• When Lopez started work at the Yale School of Medicine, they had only three sequencing machines in a makeshift laboratory. By the time he left for Regeneron, Yale Medicine’s genomics lab had gone from three to more than 10 machines; under his watch, they were generating the output of 20 machines.
• Genomics is a huge component of the emerging field of personalized medicine, which treats patients based on their specific genetic makeup, lifestyle, et cetera. President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative (you might have heard him mention it during the State of the Union Address) appealed for $215 million in funding from the 2016 budget for further research. The initiative calls for sequencing DNA from one million volunteer donors.