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Chemical Genomics, Next-Gen Sequencing, mpiBlast, Atul Butte, and ISB

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Five years ago, Genome Technology's cover story examined the rise of chemical genomics and profiled Chris Austin, who was kicking off a new small molecule screening initiative at NIH. Today, Austin is director of the NIH Chemical Genomics Center, which has established a successful track record through a model of partnering with experts in the community and designing assays critical for screening compounds. The center has built up a production-scale facility and capacity including some 400,000 compounds. Austin has also been instrumental in getting the Molecular Libraries Initiative up and running, which has established a network of centers to help researchers with production of small molecule probes.

Also in the January/February 2005 issue, GT reported on the winners of NHGRI's first round of awards for the $1,000 and $100,000 genome sequencing grants. Some of the near-term winners included Gina Costa for Agencourt, which turned into the sequencing technology scooped up by Applied Biosystems in 2006; researchers at 454 Life Sciences, acquired in 2007 by Roche; and Steve Quake, whose technology concept became the foundation for Helicos' platform.

Another story in 2005 updated readers on mpiBlast, the highly parallelized version of Blast developed by Wu-chun Feng at Los Alamos. In the time since, Feng has moved to Virginia Tech, where he and his colleagues continue to improve the popular algorithm — last fall, that led to a new version aimed at petascale parallel computers.

In news a year ago, we reported on work from Atul Butte at Stanford, who described 'fitSNPs,' or functionally interpolating polymorphisms that help prioritize SNPs in disease studies. In December, Butte and colleagues published a new paper in PLoS Genetics demonstrating a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies previously performed on autoimmune diseases. The findings suggest that the variants that increase someone's risk for one type of autoimmune disease might actually make that person less likely to have other types of autoimmune problems.

Another article last February profiled the Institute for Systems Biology, launched in 2000 by Alan Aderem, Ruedi Aebersold, and Lee Hood. In the year since, ISB scientists became early users of Complete Genomics' sequencing service. After a pilot program sequencing the genomes of a four-member family, the ISB scientists and collaborators signed on with the company to have 100 human genomes sequenced for a study of Huntington's disease.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.