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Let the Hypochondria Begin


This may seem strange for someone who rides a New York subway with some frequency, but I’ve never paid much attention to infectious disease. But two years ago, as I sat in a packed room listening to a plenary address at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting, it became obvious to me that genomics would have a major impact in this area. The speaker was Jeffery Taubenberger from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and he described his team's effort to track down DNA samples from victims of the 1918 influenza, sequence the nearly 90-year-old flu strain, and finally take a close look at the pandemic that felled as many as 100 million people. Now that's great science.

It wasn't the first really compelling story of genomics tackling an infectious disease, and lots of terrific work since then has already made sure it won’t be the last. But Taubenberger's story does illustrate just how much the community stands to learn by taking these new technologies and applying them to diseases that have stumped scientists and clinicians for years.

In our cover story this month, GT brings you the stories of some of the leading scientists and research in this rapidly growing field. There was no shortage to choose from: we’ve got a scientist commandeering bits of Google Earth to create a global map showing location and timing of viral spread; a team repurposing a clinical proteomics platform to build a portable TB detector; and much more. We couldn’t be comprehensive, of course, but we aimed to give you a good overview of the kinds of research going on.

Also in this issue, we’ve got a feature story on label-free proteomics. GT’s Ciara Curtin spoke with proteomic experts to bring you news of the latest advances in label-free approaches that try to solve some of the problems with earlier methods. Not sure whether labeling proteins is the way to go? This article should give you a good sense of the pros and cons of labeling and label-free experiments to help you plan your next step. And to continue on our regional focus series, Jeanene Swanson delivers our second installment with a look at Pennsylvania. Home to a number of biotechs, pharmas, and universities, the state is going head to head with leading biosectors like San Francisco and Boston. Our Under One Roof column profiles the Windber Research Institute, also located in Pennsylvania.

Finally, we get a lot of questions from academic scientists on what it takes to start a company. This month’s career column focuses on that issue, with advice from a scientist-turned-entrepreneur and a listing of Web resources that will come in handy should you decide the startup path is right for you.

The Scan

Study Reveals New Details About Genetics of Major Cause of Female Infertility

Researchers in Nature Medicine conducted a whole-exome sequencing study of mote than a thousand patients with premature ovarian insufficiency.

Circulating Tumor DNA Shows Potential as Biomarker in Rare Childhood Cancer

A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that circulating tumor DNA levels in rhabdomyosarcoma may serve as a biomarker for prognosis.

Study Recommends Cancer Screening for Dogs Beginning Age Seven, Depending on Breed

PetDx researchers report in PLOS One that annual cancer screening for dogs should begin by age seven.

White-Tailed Deer Harbor SARS-CoV-2 Variants No Longer Infecting Humans, Study Finds

A new study in PNAS has found that white-tailed deer could act as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 variants no longer found among humans.