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Editors Note

One molecular biology tools industry standard: PowerPoint.

Perhaps the most underappreciated tool in the molecular biology toolkit is Microsoft’s PowerPoint. This thought was driven home at this week’s Chips to Hits conference in Boston. The conference is the unofficial industry gathering of the microarray sector, and one that I had attended for the last two years as editor of BioArray News.

I attended the conference this year as an invited speaker, to make a presentation on data standards and microarrays. The creation of this publication, which publishes its third edition today, provided a new perspective to view standards.

The emerging drive to create new technologies and processes that will enable the interplay of data from gene-expression platforms, sequencing platforms, proteomics, metabolomics, high-content cellular assays, and countless other techniques is to help investigators get a new global view of molecular biology. This thrust is just entering the conceptual stage, and many people say it is a very large and challenging goal, and one that no one company or entity can accomplish single-handedly.

Certainly that is the case for microarrays, a 10-year-old technology that is rapidly nearing the commodity stage of commercialization, but held back by so much variability in its processes, that today, it is difficult to align data from separate commercial platforms.

Standard procedures are a clear and pressing need for all the players in this industry, but one that will likely take time to emerge.

However, this industry apparently has organized around PowerPoint as a way to share heavy loads of data and analysis. Busy executives, like Agilent Technologies’ Barney Saunders, carry several presentations. On Tuesday, Saunders opened up a PowerPoint file with a white background only to quickly close it down when it was apparent that this was an eyes-only communication. He opened another and presented it before a standing-room-only crowd at Chips. The lush PowerPoint, full of text, presented the company’s plan for its microarray product lines.

But, PowerPoint doesn’t only belong to the executive who has the backing of personal assistants and a marketing staff to create powerful presentations.

Winston Kuo, a Harvard PhD candidate and a microarray researcher, also presented in this conference and proved he is wizard of PowerPoint. After hearing the first three presentations on Tuesday, he stepped to the podium as the only thing standing between the crowded room and a break. Winston had edited his presentation on the run, clipping out 20 pages and still having enough data for a presentation on his research comparing cross-platform results of microarray-based gene-expression profiling.

— Mo Krochmal ([email protected])

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