Predicting the future of research and betting on the next big thing are recurring themes in science. In May 2001, Genome Technology spoke with venture capitalists, analysts, and company finance officers about the future of genomics and investing in the technology that was just getting off the ground. Noubar Afeyan, then a managing partner of venture capital firm Applied Genomic Technology Capital Fund, said he considered both technology vendors and companies dedicated to discovery to be good investment opportunities. "We are spreading our bets across the various areas," Afeyan said 10 years ago. Now, he is chairman of the board of life sciences company BG Medicine, which he helped found. He also co-founded Helicos Biosciences.
Five years ago, GT was on to science's next big bet: the use of biomarkers in the clinic. At the time, there was a large gap between the discovery of biomarkers in the lab and the use of biomarkers in the clinic — finding them was one thing, but validating them and getting them approved for clinical practice was another thing altogether. Leigh Anderson told GT that one of the problems was the lack of a "pipeline for moving biomarker discovery to a standard clinical test."
These days, biomarker discovery is an important part of finding treatments for various diseases, especially cancer. Several genetic markers are being used as prognostic or diagnostic tools in the clinic. In April, researchers in Italy published a study in BMC Cancer on the potential of using copy number variations in the erbB2 gene as prognostic markers for patients with esophageal carcinoma.
Last year, researchers, regulators, and administrators were all pondering the future of science as the money that had been poured into research by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was about to run out. The University of Florida's Michael Conlon told GT that though the stimulus money had been a boon for scientific research, the fear was that when the money ran out, grants would not be renewed and people would have to be laid off.
A year later, researchers are now worrying about what will happen as governments slash science budgets. In the US, President Barack Obama had asked for an increase for NIH in 2011, but the Republicans in Congress proposed instead to cut the NIH budget by $1.4 billion; the final budget includes a $260 million cut for NIH.