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Francis Collins, diagnostics, GSAC, and more


A year ago, GT readers honored Francis Collins as Person of the Year — his picture graced the cover — for his work leading the Human Genome Project, which was formally completed in April 2003. Collins had managed to lead an effort that was widely celebrated in the popular media and that was finished two years early and $400 million under budget (of course, some credit would have to be given to the stimulus of Venter’s competition). In the last year, Collins has continued to lead the National Human Genome Research Institute, and has made initial steps toward carrying out the long-term plan for NHGRI as laid out in the NIH roadmap. In addition to prioritizing the genome sequencing of additional organisms, Collins has taken NHGRI into relatively foreign territory, such as in funding four new Centers for Excellence in Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research as well as new efforts in chemical genomics.

The November/December 2003 issue of GT also included a report on genomics-derived diagnostics, looking particularly closely at DiaDexus, a company that at the time was one of very few to have received FDA approval to market a diagnostic test discovered with the help of genomics. In the months since then, GlaxoSmithKline announced that it has gathered positive phase II data in tests of a drug that lowers the activitiy of Lp-PLA2, the protein biomarker DiaDexus’ assay tests for. This past September, DiaDexus expanded its collaboration with Medarex to work together to develop antibodies against cancer targets discovered by DiaDexus. For more on genomics-based diagnostics, check out this month’s article on personalized medicine (p. 22).

A year ago we also reported that GE had made a $9.5 billion offer to buy Amersham. That acquisition closed in April of this year with an $11.3 billion transaction that brought both Amersham’s health and biosciences units under the umbrella of GE Healthcare. In recent news, GE announced that the division earned $3.3 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2004.

Also in last year’s magazine we included photos snapped at GSAC XV, held that year in Savannah, Ga. The conference, which has seen a considerable drop in attendance, took place this September in Washington, DC. Evidently exhibitors were not the only ones complaining about a slow show: shortly after the conference, organizing institution TIGR announced that it would no longer host the meeting. Craig Venter’s Venter Institute says it will organize the conference in years to come.


Coming Up/Next Month in GT

Don’t miss these stories in the January/February issue:

Chemical genomics

NHGRI and NIMH will invest millions of dollars in a new chemical genomics initiative that brings public-sector integrated biology research further into drug discovery than ever before. What are the newly established centers doing, and who’s leading the field? We’ll also look at whether this initiative will help advance drug development or will prove redundant to efforts pharma has already made.

Comparative and evolutionary genomics

Scientists are devising all sorts of new techniques to study how organisms have evolved and what makes them tick. The field, which relies heavily on bioinformatic analysis of sequence and microarray data, is also providing a much-needed boost to functional genomics research. We’ll take you inside some of the foremost efforts in this niche, including how RNAi is coming in handy, and look at what other doors comparative genomics is opening.

The Scan

Panel Recommends Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for Kids

CNN reports that the US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has voted in favor of authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old.

Sharing How to Make It

Merck had granted a royalty-free license for its COVID-19 treatment to the Medicines Patent Pool, according to the New York Times.

Bring it Back In

Bloomberg reports that a genetic analysis has tied a cluster of melioidosis cases in the US to a now-recalled aromatherapy spray.

Nucleic Acids Research Papers on SomaMutDB, VThunter, SCovid Databases

In Nucleic Acids Research this week: database of somatic mutations in normal tissue, viral receptor-related expression signatures, and more.