Mihail "Mike" Roco
National Science Foundation and National Nanotechnology Initiative
Led the nearly $1-billion-a-year U.S. government effort in nanotechnology.
As the leader of the NSF's National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), Mike Roco has demonstrated a balanced approach, taking account of both the technical challenges and the concerns regarding potential societal impacts of the new technology. Under Roco's leadership, the NNI has sponsored extensive public outreach, K-12 educational programs, regular workshops and publications on the societal impacts of nanotechnology. Roco has thereby succeeded in building a solid consensus in the scientific and nontechnical communities that nanotechnology is important for future scientific and economic development, and he has furthered public acceptance of nanotechnology. This consensus has been critical for securing federal funding for nanotechnology research and development, which has increased eightfold, from $116 million in 1997 to an estimated $961 million in 2004. These policy methods are strongly influencing those in a number of other countries, such as the European Union's Sixth Framework Program.
Polly F. Harrison
Director, Alliance for Microbicide Development, Silver Spring, Md.
Promoted the use of a compound to prevent the spread of HIV.
Short of a vaccine against HIV, the most promising (and more easily realized) prevention technology would be a microbicide that women could apply topically before sexual intercourse to prevent transmission of the virus. Such a product would allow a woman to control her own protection. This is often not the case with condom use, particularly in the developing world, where male resistance to condoms is widespread. Polly Harrison has played a leading role in organizing legislative and policy initiatives to involve pharmaceutical and biotech companies, the U.S. government and academic research organizations in the development of a microbicide. This year her efforts and those of others began to pay off. In July the U.S. House of Representatives provided $30 million for microbicide research at the U.S. Agency for International Development, an $8-million increase over the previous year. More than 60 candidate microbicides are in the pipeline; 18 are already in clinical testing. With an increase in funding and cooperation, a microbicide could be available within five years. Even a partially effective product could prevent almost a million infections a year.
Anthony J. Tether
Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
Organized the Grand Challenge Robot Race.
Of the 15 vehicles that started the Grand Challenge race this past March, not one completed the 227-kilometer course. One crashed into a fence, another went into reverse after encountering some sagebrush, and some moved not an inch. The best performer, the Carnegie Mellon entry, got 12 kilometers before taking a hairpin turn a little too fast. The $1-million prize went unclaimed. In short, the race was a resounding success. The task that the Pentagon's most forward-thinking research branch under Anthony J. Tether set out was breathtakingly demanding. Most bots can barely get across a lab floor, but DARPA wanted them to navigate an off-road trail at high speed with complete autonomy. The agency had expected maybe half a dozen teams, but more than 100, ranging from high school students to veteran roboticists, gave it a try. The race, the first in a series of congressionally mandated technology prizes, has concentrated the minds of researchers, blown open the technological envelope and trained a whole generation of roboticists. They will be out there again next October.