Brave New Pharmacy

Using high-speed robots and the secrets of the human genome, scientists are changing forever the way they discover new medicines

Inside an old factory building in Cambridge, Mass., a remarkable machine with the improbable name Zeus is hard at work. Flexing its two robotic arms, the computer-driven device reaches again and again into a storage area the size of a toddler's crib, where thousands of individual samples of genetic material sit in tiny wells etched into plastic plates, each one identified by a unique bar code. One by one, Zeus searches for a particular code, dips into the corresponding well with a fine, quill-like probe and picks up a minuscule droplet of liquid DNA.

Then Zeus transfers each precious droplet...

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