Genealogy of Systems Biology
It wasn’t clear from Sara Harris’ article about Hiroaki Kitano (“The Great Integrator,” June 2001) exactly when either he or Lee Hood claim to have created the term “systems biology.” However, in 1985, I was a pre-doctoral scientist at the University of California at Berkeley in the NIH-funded multidisciplinary program, “Systems and Integrative Biology.” I believe that this training grant program was set up several years before I joined. No matter who truly authored the term, the importance of this field has been clear to many of us for a long time.
Keep up the good work in covering the human-interest side of our field!
Karen E. Lowe, PhD, Scientific Director, Sample Optimization, CombiMatrix Corporation
Compaq Ad Copy Critic
Will someone please tell the ad folks at Compaq that Craig Venter did not “crack the human genetic code.” He sequenced the human genome. The genetic code was, in fact, cracked in the 1960s, as anyone who’s taken Biology 101 would know. And there is no “human genetic code.” The code — the correspondence between DNA and RNA triplet and amino acid type — is universal. Were this not so, biotechnology would not exist. I’ve kept track of this pervasive error. The only magazine/journal not to make it is Newsweek.
Ricki Lewis, PhD, Contributing Editor, The Scientist; Textbook Author, McGraw-Hill Higher Education; Genetic Counselor, CareNet Medical Group
Frudakis Fan Fesses Up
In the GT All-Stars article (July 2001) about SNP/Genotyping winner Tony Frudakis, CEO of DNAPrint, it was written that Frudakis “might also be said to take top honors in the most successful Get Out the Vote campaign, having beaten some venerable players in the category to capture top spot.” Due to my respect for Dr. Frudakis, I felt that an explanation was in order.
Dr. Frudakis’s company, DNAPrint, is a public company that is listed on the OTCBB. The Internet has profoundly made a difference in investment strategy and one of the most unusual impacts has been with the proliferation of websites that sponsor message boards. DNAP has quite an investor following that congregate at Raging Bull, and there was a strong campaign on the board to get out the votes for Dr. Frudakis. All this was to bring attention to the company and hopefully, as a result, generate more investor interest. As far as I am aware, Dr. Frudakis was not behind that promotion in any way. Please do not discount his potential impact in genomic research because of this self-interest campaign that was conducted by others.
I feel very bad now about having participated in a survey that I really had no true professional knowledge or exposure to. To have it seem like Dr. Frudakis actually campaigned for popularity votes to achieve such an honor cheapens the whole process. The extensive work required to be a true leader in genome technology education and research should not be discounted. I, like many of the other shareholders, do hope that someday Dr. Frudakis’s work will propel him into the same league with “the best of the best.” But to be elected into that field based purely on popularity and not accomplishments is wrong and does a grave disservice to other professionals within the industry.
Possibly, the next time you attempt a vote of this nature, you should figure out a way to limit it to subscribers so that the voting can be more impartial to self-interests.
To verify what I have written, please visit this message board I am speaking of: http://ragingbull .lycos.com. You should then understand the nature of what was behind Dr. Frudakis’s popularity.
B. Keller, [email protected]
Profitable Bioinformatics Co. Pipes Up
Nat Goodman’s article “Who Wants To Be a Bioinformatics Millionaire” (May 2001) was interesting and entertaining. He noted that none of the public bioinformatics companies is profitable, and surmised that the most profitable bioinformatics firm must be a small, private company.
He was right. BioTools Incorporated (BTI) is privately owned and is profitable. Over the past year, we showed profit of about 30 percent on revenue in the single digit millions. Established in 1995, BTI has released a series of proprietary bioinformatics software packages and provides bioinformatics consulting and contractual development services to some of the largest and most successful companies throughout the life sciences industries.
Nat also posed the question, “What business model has the best chance of enabling a large, profitable bioinformatics company by the year 2005?” I believe I have an answer for this one too: A bioinformatics company that excels at designing, developing and delivering scientifically sophisticated analytical software, in conjunction with providing best-of-breed consulting services has the best shot at rapid growth and continued profitability. Interestingly enough, that last sentence is a pretty good description of BioTools.
Lastly, we at BTI find Genome Technology to be superb. It is insightful, informative and very entertaining. If one of Nat’s questions had been “How do you build a sure-fire success in the area of genomic technology publishing?” he wouldn’t have to look very far to find the answer!
Gordon R. Stranks, President and CEO, BioTools Incorporated
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