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Meaningless Milestone or Must-Have Technology?

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During a mid-summer visit to Agilent’s headquarters in Palo Alto, the company’s communications director Christina Maehr pulled me aside with a cat-who-swallowed-a-canary expression on her face. Agilent’s R&D team was bursting at the seams to talk about their newest genomics technology, but the marketing department wasn’t ready for prime time. Agilent prides itself on never hyping vaporware. This technology was set to launch. It was just a matter of some final testing, getting marketing materials in order, and deciding, among other things, whether to announce it at the GSAC show in September or Chips to Hits in October. On the condition that Genome Technology get first dibs on covering the story, I signed a nondisclosure agreement, got the scoop, and flew back to New York, a cat-who-swallowed-a-canary look on my own face, anxious for the go-ahead to break the news on the cover of our October issue.

A week later Applied Biosystems beat Agilent to the punch. As Meredith Salisbury reported in our last issue, ABI’s July 22 announcement that it was to launch the “first system for whole-human-genome analysis using a single microarray” spurred Agilent to go public about its pending whole-human-genome microarray.

So much for our scoop. But the news cascade made for better cover story material anyway. Senior editor John MacNeil set to work in August surveying the sector in order to tell you what you need to know before investing in one of the new tools. More importantly, John wondered what all the excitement was about. Is the whole-genome chip a significant step for science, or just a symbolic grand finale? How much more useful will a whole-human-genome microarray be than the chips that already exist?

Though ABI declined to discuss its product — except to say that it won’t be available till year end — Affymetrix went cagily on the record about its pending product, promising a whole-human-genome chip before year end, Illumina revealed that it has a whole-genome array in the works, and Nimblegen Systems noted that it’s been offering custom analysis on whole-genome chips since the beginning of the year. It seems Agilent wasn’t the only one working on a press release. John’s article takes you through the questions you’ll need to consider before buying a chip from one of these vendors. A table comparing the four platforms appears on p. 26.

Also in this issue, managing editor Meredith Salisbury makes her debut as legal columnist on p. 19 with a well-reasoned rant about the failed logic of the Public Access to Science Act. If there are IP or legal topics you’d like to see Meredith tackle in upcoming issues, drop her a note at [email protected] She’s no lawyer, but she knows how to make a case like one.

For GenomeWeb.com regulars, there’s one other new addition of note: to help you keep on top of all the genomics- and proteomics-related activity bubbling up out of the defense industry, news director Marian Jones is penning a new weekly BioDefense Bulletin. Look for it online every Friday.

 

Adrienne J. Burke, Editor in Chief

[email protected]

 

Coming next month in GT:

• Diagnostics Development: Find out how the leading clinical laboratory testing services are incorporating genomics into their technologies, collaborating with biotech and pharma companies, and clearing the path for genomics in healthcare

• The 2003 GT All-Stars in proteomics, gene expression, bioinformatics, RNAi, genotyping, databases, and sequencing technology as selected by the 101-person GT All-Stars Academy

• Pattern Recognition: Which is the best-known siRNA vendor? Which is the most-used siRNA selection tool? We give a peek at the recent GenomeWeb RNAi Market Snapshot.

 

The Scan

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