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Contract sequencers, von Bohlen, and FPGAs


In Genome Technology a year ago, our cover story analyzed the growing trend of outsourced sequencing work. Researchers in the know contended that sequencing was getting to the point that oligo synthesis had reached some 10 years earlier: a process so routine — and cheap per reaction, but requiring expensive equipment — that it simply made sense to send samples to a vendor rather than handle them in-house.

In the year since that article, contract sequencers have continued to do well. SeqWright, a major vendor in the field, has announced in the past several months a contract to sequence 400,000 BACs for the tomato genome project, as well as upgrades to its equipment and labs and staff growth. Lark Technologies, acquired by Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, was credited with being the driver for Genaissance’s 115 percent jump in revenues for the third quarter of last year. And Agencourt Bioscience doubled its lab size by opening new headquarters last fall, announcing simultaneous plans to bring its workforce from 80 to about 100.

In a news story last year, Genome Technology reported that Friedrich von Bohlen, longtime leader of Lion Bioscience, had stepped down. At the time, von Bohlen told the magazine, he was sure that he would remain in the life sciences field, but hadn’t figured out where. As it turned out for von Bohlen, you can go home again: after some 10 months away, he returned to Lion in early November as chairman of its supervisory board. During the course of the year Lion has had several changes in management, including the resignations of COO Daniel Keesman, CFO Martin Hollenhorst, and the company’s previous supervisory board: J rgen Dormann, Klaus Pohle, and Richard Roy. Not long after von Bohlen returned in November 2004, Thure Etzold, former co-CEO, was named CEO, and Peter Willinger was promoted to CFO. Joseph Donahue, who had filled in to lead the company after von Bohlen’s departure, now serves as the president of Lion’s US subsidiary and is in charge of global sales.

Our IT feature last year took an early look at a relatively cheap technology poised to become a popular solution for computational researchers looking for a boost in performance speed. Field programmable gate arrays — PC accessories known to soup up performance in regular computers — could be used to make sequence homology searches run faster, according to Yoshiki Yamaguchi at RIKEN, with whom GT spoke last year. Over the past 12 months you’ve been hearing more and more about FPGAs (a quick search of our daily news site,, shows a steadily rising number of references to FPGAs). We also noticed it during a roundtable of high-performance computing experts we hosted last May, where experts showed great interest in the technology. In this issue, we have another high-performance computing article, and you’ll see that the more and more commonplace FPGAs have made an appearance there, too.


The Scan

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Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

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Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

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PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.