Thomas Hopp, scientist and author


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Methods Enzymology 178
Feathered Dragons
Thomas Hopp's Scientific Discoveries

Tom has enjoyed a long and sometimes controversial career in the biotechnology industry, and he has earned an international reputation for his scientific breakthroughs. He has been invited to lecture in Brussels, Siena, Budapest, San Francisco, Cambridge and Jerusalem, among other places.

Among his credits are two fundamental molecular biology breakthroughs, as well as the cloning of an immune-system hormone and contributions to evolutionary biology.

THE FLAG EPITOPE. Genetic engineers around the world rely on a tool Tom originated: the epitope tag. His "FLAG" tag is a molecular handle that allows scientists to manipulate cells and proteins at the molecular level. The first commercially successful nanotechnology device, this invention is used in labs studying every major microbial disease and medical condition. Most users aren't aware who originated the technique. More.

HYDROPHILICITY ANALYSIS. Tom's first scientific breakthrough occurred while he was in graduate school earning his PhD degree at Cornell Medical College in New York City. He originated a method for analyzing the hydrophilic/hydrophobic nature of proteins to identify key interaction sites on these intriguing molecules. Nowadays, scientists around the world utilize the "Hopp and Woods hydrophilicity plotting method" or the similar procedure of Kyte and Doolittle, who got their idea from Tom. More.

INTERLEUKIN 1. Tom led a team of 30 Immunex scientists in a race to clone Interleukin 1 before teams in other labs could beat them to the punch. Tom's group outdid their competitors, cloning two separate genes for IL-1. Controversy dogged his steps however. One competing company sued Immunex over who made the discoveries first, naming Tom in their court case with $164 million in the balance. More.

BIRD EVOLUTION. Tom stepped into another scientific controversy when he proposed that the small dinosaurian ancestors of birds evolved wing feathers, not to fly, but to brood their young. Flying, according to his theory, came later. More.