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Biomarkers, Liotta and Petricoin, INMEGEN, FoldIt

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Back in 2004, Genome Technology's cover story focused on the search for biomarkers, particularly ones that could be used in diagnostic tests. As there are many approaches that researchers can take to find biomarkers — gene expression, protein expression, metabolites, mRNA, methylation patterns, and more — the article explored the ease, robustness, and regulatory tape surrounding a variety of methods. Today the quest for biomarkers is still going strong. On page 36 of this issue, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's Scott Diehl and Cornell University's Fabien Campagne sit down for a discussion of biomarker research.

In that same issue, a column discussed the ethical woes of Emanuel Petricoin and Lance Liotta. In 2004, Petricoin and Liotta co-directed the joint NCI-FDA clinical proteomics program and were called before Congress to talk about their consulting connections with Correlogic Systems and Biospect (which became Predicant Biosciences and now is Pathwork Diagnostics) — relationships that had been approved by ethics officials. To Congress, Petricoin said, "I would never knowingly pursue or continue any outside activity which I felt was in conflict with a career spent as a scientist in the pursuit of public and patient benefit." Both Petricoin and Liotta joined George Mason University in 2005. In 2006, they founded Theranostics Health, a translational medicine company, and, in 2008, the duo co-founded Ceres to capitalize on their Nanotrap technology.

The institute profiled in last year's summer issue was the National Institute of Genomic Medicine in Mexico City. At the time, institute researchers were working on what they'd dubbed the Mexican HapMap project and were genotyping Mexicans of Mestizo and indigenous backgrounds. This May, researchers from INMEGEN published an analysis of genomic diversity of the Mexican Mestizo population in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Mexican populations, the study found, were less diverse than the HapMap populations, though there appear to be four distinct Mestizo sub-populations with different levels of Amerindian and European ancestry.

Last year's Brute Force highlighted the FoldIt program that presents three-dimensional protein folding puzzles as a game. FoldIt, from David Baker at the University of Washington, now has tons of dedicated users — "evolvers" and "soloists" — and is taking on more challenges. The new puzzle isn't a folding problem, but a design one. Namely, Baker is asking users to design a vaccine for HIV by creating a protein that resembles GP120, HIV's entry protein, but that doesn't have the loops that protect GP120 from antibody attack.

The Scan

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Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.