As the financial crisis came to a head toward the end of 2008, a bar near our office in New York's financial district offered recession specials — the more the Dow dropped, the cheaper the drinks. A few blocks away, outside the AIG building, a disgruntled man stood with a cut-out of the company's CEO and a handful of darts. Despite the levity some tried to bring to the situation, a general feeling of impending doom hung over lower Manhattan as the financial crisis deepened. A similar sentiment also seemed to grip the life sciences: the percentage of grants funded by the National Institutes of Health hovered in the low 20s and the agency's budget fell off its growth path. It was lab-on-a-shoestring time.
But with the financial crisis there also came a potential boon for basic life sciences research. Today, a little more than a year after the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that bar on Liberty Street sadly no longer offers its recession specials; the Dow has seen some gains, even flirting with the 11,000-point mark. At the same time, the life science community has also seen signs of recovery. In this month's cover story, Genome Technology delves into the effect of ARRA on the life sciences, particularly genomics as well as what the future may bring.
Also in this issue, Matthew Dublin looks into work being done to understand the relationship between DNA methylation and disease. Improvements, he says, are being made upon the standard bisulfite sequencing to make it more precise and sensitive. Methylation status, he continues, could become more common as a predictive biomarker.
Tracy Vence takes on population genomics in an article detailing how genome-wide association studies can be used in epidemiological and public health projects, while Christie Rizk caught up with Harvard Neurodiscovery Center's Marcie Glicksman and the Boston University School of Medicine's Benjamin Wolozin to learn more about their collaboration. Glicksman and Wolozin have teamed up to use high-throughput screens and cell-based assays to find therapeutics for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.