The cover story of the October 2000 issue of Genome Technology focused on Alan Proctor, calling him "Pfizer's secret weapon." Proctor was then the vice president of discovery, genomics, targets, and cancer research in the US, where he started the company's Discovery Technology Center. He envisioned the center as a place where researchers could work unencumbered by the daily demands of drug discovery research. Proctor then moved on to become VP of strategic alliances at Pfizer.
In the same issue, we wondered what the Joint Genome Institute would find itself doing in the post-genomic era, asking "is DOE working toward a biological revolution, or is it in mass-production mode?" GT spoke with Trevor Hawkins, then the deputy director of the institute, about its future and concluded that it was in flux. Today, the genome is alive and well at JGI, which is directing programs on bioenergy, metagenomics, and more. In addition, its Community Sequencing Program encourages users to recommend archaea and microbes relevant to the department's mission for sequencing. For his part, Hawkins moved up to direct the institute before moving on to work at Amersham Biosciences, MDS, and Philips. Most recently, he was the chair and CEO of ProGenTech.
In 2005, GT brought together three experts to discuss whether pharma was up to the task of using systems biology in drug discovery and development. Astra-Zeneca's Jim Beusmans said that the formerly linear route of drug discovery was going to become more parallelized. Jim Xu, from Pfizer, added the "traditional lines" were still necessary for meeting good laboratory practices. And TIGR's Norman Lee noted that it's still important to have groups focusing on one project. Today, Beusmans is at Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Xu is at Merck; and Lee is at George Washington University.
Last year's cover story examined the Human Microbiome Project, which some were calling a "second Human Genome Project." A first step, according to Washington University in St. Louis' George Weinstock, should be to have a description of the human microbiome that is "comparable to the working draft of the human reference sequence." At the American Society for Microbiology conference this past May, Weinstock said that the first data freeze for 16S rRNA sequence data from samples of healthy people was to occur that month and that researchers planned a shotgun sequence freeze during the summer.