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NIH Funding Woes, Proteomics in Pharma, and SBH Tech

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In GT's cover story for last year's July/August issue, we ran a report on the NIH's flat funding for biomedical and biosciences research, including a detailed guide to alternate sources of private funding. We hope you made use of that resource because funding for fiscal year 2007 remained flat, and the budget proposal for 2008 is even worse. “Flat,” as has been pointed out by many scientists in the field, is merely a euphemism — when you take inflation into account, the actual spending power of the NIH has dropped significantly in the past few years and promises to continue the trend.

The feature story in last year's issue delved into yet another of those tongue-twisting ‘omics, pharmacoproteomics, which some experts at the time thought would eventually — and perhaps soon — outpace pharmacogenomics. The aim for better targeted therapeutics seems to be well-sharpened a year later, since two of our profiled scientists have spun out their developing technology into a company. Emanuel Petricoin and Lance Liotta started Theranostics Health in September 2006 to bring the reverse phase protein microarray they developed out of their labs at George Mason University and into, hopefully, those of drug companies and hospitals.

Five years ago, our July 2002 cover story also focused on the NIH, which at the time had a total budget of $23 billion and was in the process of a multi-year push to double the agency's funding. Our story featured an interview with NHGRI Director Francis Collins, who emphasized that he believed the genome institute's focus should be on increasing both funding and technology development in the post-genomic era. Some of that technology development came in the form of next-generation sequencing, a field that has been spurred in no small part by the slew of awards given through the NHGRI's $100,000 genome and $1,000 genome grants.

GT's August 2002 issue included a feature story about the dealings between chipmaker Affymetrix and sequencing-by-hybridization pioneer Hyseq. Lifted from the mire of a four-year patent litigation war by Amgen founder George Rathmann, Hyseq partnered with Affy to create spinoff Callida Genomics in 2001, which had high hopes of bringing its SBH technology to market. In the end, Hyseq acquired Variagenics in 2003, and changed its name to Nuvelo. In late 2004, Nuvelo finally divested itself completely of Callida, which in turn was bought back by one of Hyseq's co-founders, Radoje Drmanac. From Callida, Drmanac spun off Complete Genomics in March 2006, through which he still aims to use the SBH method to make low-cost, whole-genome sequencing a reality. (Major players in the market, such as 454 and Solexa, instead use a sequencing-by-synthesis approach.)

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.