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The Cancer Issue, Swine Sequencing - And Who Remembers DoubleTwist?

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A year ago, Genome Technology reported in its cover story on some of the recent advances in cancer research. Among these was the establishment of a three-year pilot cancer research initiative called The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Since then, TCGA has decided that it will focus on lung, brain, and ovarian cancers, and has chosen the institutions that will serve as the Cancer Genome Characterization Centers. The institutions hosting these centers include the Broad Institute; Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Johns Hopkins University; Stanford University School of Medicine; and the University of North Carolina.

In news last year, GT reported that Thomas Caskey, former Merck exec and subsequent founder of Cogene Biotech Ventures, was named director and CEO of the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM). In November 2006, the 223,000-square-foot, $200 million Fayez S. Sarofim Research Building was dedicated, and IMM still aims to house as many as 125 new recruits for its six main research centers.

In other news, the international Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium got down to business with a $10 million grant from the USDA to finish a draft sequence of the 2.7 Gb genome by this year. As of last October, 7,381 BAC clones were selected and sent for sequencing, representing 53 percent of the whole genome contig map. A total of 309 Mb from 1,746 accessioned clones have been sequenced, and 25.9 Mb of the entire genome completed.

Also reported last year was that 454 Life Sciences helped sequence the genome of the woolly mammoth, a not-so-ordinary feat considering that the animal went extinct nearly 10,000 years ago. Last summer, the Max Planck Institute announced its partnership with 454 to begin sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal. So far, 1 million base pairs have been sequenced, and the institute intends to fund the remainder of the project, which will sequence the entire 3 billion base pairs.

Five years ago this month, a feature article probed the fate of DoubleTwist, which, in fact, was not only done living dangerously (as we put it then), but done living. DoubleTwist shut out the lights that same month, and put its assets up for auction in May 2002. Lion Bioscience, reported to have just acquired competitor Netgenics for a paltry $17 million, never reaped the predicted profits. After struggles of its own, Lion finally sold its bioinformatics assets in April 2006.

Also in the 2002 issue, GT reported that Craig Venter stepped down as Celera’s president in 2001, and mused on what he would do next. Turns out, a whole lot. Since then, he’s established three nonprofits -- the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation, the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, and the Center for the Advancement of Genomics -- and then, in a decision made last October, he took over his former home base of TIGR and consolidated it all under the Venter Institute. In the meantime, he’s pushed for the sequencing of 1,000 genomes, the $1,000 genome, and founded a new company called Synthetic Genomics, aimed at using genomic information to create synthetic organisms.

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