Photo of MinMin Yen

Biotechnology & medicine

MinMin Yen

Cholera kills, and vaccines don’t always work. She created a better solution.

Year Honored



Cholera affects millions of people annually in the world’s poorest communities. It’s often treated with antibiotics, but they’re not ideal because they harm the bacteria in the gut, and antibiotic resistance is on the rise.

Minmin Yen developed a better solution: bacteriophages, or viruses that specifically target bacteria. What’s significant about Yen’s intervention is that it works immediately to kill the bacteria and prevent the disease from developing. Existing vaccines, in contrast, can take weeks to work.

Yen, who earned a PhD in molecular microbiology at Tufts University, says bacteriophages have been mostly unexplored because antibiotics are so prevalent, but she thinks it’s time for them to play a larger role now that resistant bacteria are so common. She has started a company, PhagePro, to bring her intervention to market.

—Erika Beras