Natalie Shelton

Mei Mei Hu

Mei-Mei-Hu-TIME-100-Next Natalie Shelton 

Even with scientists as parents, it wasn’t always obvious that Mei Mei Hu would end up as the CEO of United Neuroscience, a company she co-founded in 2014 to find new ways to fight brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. She earned a law degree and joined a consulting firm before being lured back to science—experiences that she credits with giving her insights into solving complex problems in creative ways. At United Neuroscience, she’s urging her researchers to intervene early in degenerative brain diseases by pioneering a new class of endobody vaccines, which train the immune system to produce specific antibodies that some people naturally make against the toxic proteins that cause problems in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “We know the right target, and we know intervening earlier in the disease is better,” says Hu. “So a vaccine proposition makes much more sense now.” Animal studies and early work on a small number of Alzheimer’s patients are promising enough that the company plans to launch a larger-scale trial in a little over a year. And prove that sometimes in science, you don’t need a Ph.D. to make a breakthrough. —Alice Park

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