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Genome Technology All-Stars of Science, Working Around an NIH Budget Crunch and a Shoestring Lab Budget, More


For its July 2001 issue, Genome Technology's editors asked readers to pick "the industry's best and brightest" to be named GT All-Stars. Among the winners were Ewan Birney, Francis Collins, Lee Hood, Eric Lander, Jonathan Rothberg, and Craig Venter. Collins, of course, is now director of the National Institutes of Health; Venter has since established his eponymous institute; and Rothberg has founded RainDance Technologies and Ion Torrent.

GT's August issue that year highlighted proteomics research. Advances in mass spec technology, like Applied Biosystems' TOF/TOF instrument, and new startup companies, like David Fenyö's ProteoMetrics, were expected to help researchers perform high-throughput proteomics and provide them with tools for bioinformatics analysis. Today, human proteome research has yielded reams of data on disease biomarkers, and scientists are using that information to create new diagnostics and personalize treatments for patients. Researchers have also developed new techniques to discover low-abundance proteins as biomarkers of disease, particularly cancer.

In 2006, GT's July/August issue asked where researchers could get new funding during an NIH budget crunch. At the time, NIH was feeling some pain. After five years of budget increases, Congress had cut the agency's funds, leading the grant approval success rate to plummet. As the price of doing science rose, labs across the country were feeling the pinch — cutting staff, scrimping on research, and warning of the consequences of such a drawdown in science investing. The answer then seemed to be private foundation grants, and GT provided readers with a list of private foundations that might help in making up the funding shortfall.

Today, researchers are feeling a similar pinch. Labs across the country are again learning to make do with less, searching for ways to make their funding last, facing lower grant success rates, and cutting personnel. In its July/August 2010 issue, GT asked researchers how they made do in lean times. Some showcased their thriftiness with homemade instruments, like salad-spinner centrifuges. Others suggested that those in need of more money look to government sources other than NIH or the National Science Foundation, such as the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Homeland Security, in addition to private foundations that fund genomics research.

Christie Rizk