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ImmunoPCR, Microarray Diagnostics, and a Whole New Breed of Institute

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A year ago in Genome Technology, a feature story checked into immunoPCR as an up-and-coming diagnostic tool. Only 15 years old, the technique couples an antibody-based detection assay with real-time PCR, allowing for the detection of proteins and viruses in very small concentrations. At the time, TATAA's Mikael Kubista was tweaking his PSA test to use immunoPCR instead of ELISA, and just one company — Chimera Biotec — was selling customized immunoPCR kits. While the technique continues to make headway in the lab — it's used in drug discovery, biomarker detection, and as a clinical lab tool — tricky conjugation protocols have made it difficult to standardize and move beyond the bench.

Last year's cover story took an eagle's eye view of the microarray diagnostics arena, reviewing the main players and the chip-based assays they were developing. Roche's AmpliChip CYP450 and Agendia's MammaPrint were the first array-based diagnostic assays to gain FDA approval. Others were hard at work creating their own tests: Heidi Rehm at Harvard-Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics was developing tests for hearing loss and for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and Emory's Madhuri Hegde was developing one for X-linked muscular dystrophy. In July of this year, Pathwork Diagnostics' Tissue of Origin test became the second in vitro diagnostic multivariate index assay to be cleared by the FDA.

In September 2003, our cover story delved into the rise of the systems biology community by tracking seven pack leaders. The story looked at the leadership, structure, and goals of these new interdisciplinary biology centers, which included Stanford's Bio-X Program for Bioengineering, Biomedicine, and Biosciences; MIT's Computational and Systems Biology Initiative; Princeton's Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics; Duke's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy; the University of Michigan's Life Sciences Institute; the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research; and the Cornell Life Sciences Initiative. These have heralded a wave of similar systems biology institutes focused on meshing different disciplines for large-scale, collaborative research. (The trend has become so popular that GT has since created a special column that profiles a new systems biology center each month.) Some of the multimillion dollar institutes that have graced our pages this year include Barcelona's Centre for Genomic Regulation, the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre in Canada, and the Burnham Institute in California.

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