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The rise of epigenomics: Methylated spirits

October 15, 2009
biotech

The human genome gets more and more complicated

IT WAS, James Watson claimed, something even a monkey could do. Sequencing the human genome, that is. In truth, Dr Watson, co-discoverer of the double-helical structure of DNA back in the 1950s, had a point. Though a technical tour-de-force, the Human Genome Project was actually the sum of millions of small, repetitive actions by cleverly programmed robots. When it was complete, so the story went, humanity’s genes—the DNA code for all human proteins—would be laid bare and all would be light.

It didn’t quite work out like that. Knowing the protein-coding genes has been useful. It has provided a lexicon of proteins, including many previously unknown ones. What is needed, though, is a proper dictionary—an explanation of what the proteins mean as well as what they are. For that, you need to know how the genes’ activities are regulated in the 220 or so different types of cell a human body is made from. And that is the purpose of the American government’s Roadmap Epigenome Programme, results from which are published this week in Nature by Ryan Lister and Mattia Pelizzola of the Salk Institute in California, and their colleagues. …


The Nobel science prizes: Winning ways

October 8, 2009
biotech

Prizes for optical fibres, charge-coupled devices, ribosomes and telomeres

HOW do you look through a window that is 100km thick? That, in essence, was the question facing Charles Kao in 1966. For working out the answer, Dr Kao has been awarded part of this year’s Nobel prize for physics. Besides being thick, the window was narrow: it was an optical fibre. Dr Kao’s prize is a belated recognition of his contribution to the telecommunications revolution of the past few decades. But better late than never.

The rest of the physics prize goes almost as belatedly to Willard Boyle and George Smith who, in 1969, ushered the charge-coupled device (CCD) into being, paving the way for the digital camera. The chemistry prize went to Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath for working out the structure of ribosomes—the parts of living cells that translate genetic information into proteins. And the physiology prize went to Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for their work on telomeres, the DNA caps that stop the ends of chromosomes either unravelling or sticking to one another. …


Biohacking: Hacking goes squishy

September 3, 2009
biotech

Biotechnology: The falling cost of equipment capable of manipulating DNA is opening up a new field of “biohacking” to enthusiasts

MANY of the world’s great innovators started out as hackers—people who like to tinker with technology—and some of the largest technology companies started in garages. Thomas Edison built General Electric on the foundation of an improved way to transmit messages down telegraph wires, which he cooked up himself. Hewlett-Packard was founded in a garage in California (now a national landmark), as was Google, many years later. And, in addition to computer hardware and software, garage hackers and home-build enthusiasts are now merrily cooking up electric cars, drone aircraft and rockets. But what about biology? Might biohacking—tinkering with the DNA of existing organisms to create new ones—lead to innovations of a biological nature?

The potential is certainly there. The cost of sequencing DNA has fallen from about $1 per base pair in the mid-1990s to a tenth of a cent today, and the cost of synthesising the molecule has also fallen. Rob Carlson, the founder of a firm called Biodesic, started tracking the price of synthesis a decade ago. He found a remarkably steady decline, from over $10 per base pair to, lately, well under $1 (see chart). This decline recalls Moore’s law, which, when promulgated in 1965, predicted the exponential rise of computing power. Someday history may remember drops in the cost of DNA synthesis as Carlson’s curve. …


Invest in Spain: Business Opportunities in Biotechnology, Pharma and Life Sciences Sector

May 29, 2009
biotech

[EVENT]

July 14, 2009 – July 14, 2010 in Toronto, ON, UNITED STATES


Florida ranked as top emerging biotech cluster

May 1, 2009
biotech

In the U.S., additional emerging cluster contenders include Madison, WI; Orange County, CA; and Houston, TX. Florida and Colorado are …Click Here to Read More


Burnham Researchers Discover On Switch for Cell Death Signaling Mechanism

January 6, 2009
biotech

LA JOLLA, Calif., January 5, 2009– Scientists at Burnham Institute for Medical Research have determined the structure of the interactions between proteins that form the heart of the death inducing signaling complex (DISC), which is responsible for triggering apoptosis (programmed cell death).


Florida Creates a Life Sciences Hub

April 15, 2008
biotech

For the last several years, Florida has been named by various industry pundits as one of the top biotech regions. …Click Here to Read More


Florida among top five regions targeting biotech

February 20, 2008
biotech

…Florida’s willingness to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to attract satellite operations of leading research institutions was one of …Click Here to Read More


Burnham Researchers Illuminate Complex Mechanisms that Regulate DNA Damage Control and Replication in the Cell Cycle

January 5, 2008
biotech

LA JOLLA, Calif., January 5, 2008—Scientists at Burnham Institute for Medical Research have demonstrated important new roles for the protein kinase complex Cdc7/Dbf4 or Cdc7/Drf1 (Ddk) in monitoring damage control during DNA replication and reinitiating replication following DNA repair. Since Ddk is often deregulated in human cancers, this new understanding of its role in DNA damage control could help shape new cancer therapies.


Patenting Life by Michael Crichton

February 28, 2007
biotech

Click the headline to visit Michael Crichton’s website and view the article…