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Synthetic bio, proteins, the biofx biz


One year ago in Genome Technology, we touched base with some of the leaders driving the field of synthetic biology. George Church, Drew Endy, Jay Keasling, and Tom Knight were just a few of the pioneering scientists we spoke with to bring you a first glimpse of what can be accomplished when engineering and biology shake hands. 


Since then, the synthetic biology community doesn't seem to be slowing down a bit. Most recently, Endy gave an overview of the young field's roots and directions when he granted an hour-long interview to the folks behind the Futures in Biotech podcast. Last summer, the US National Science Foundation granted a five-year, $17 million award to the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Keasling helms the center, and his work so far has merited the attention of Discover magazine, which named him Scientist of the Year for 2006. North America doesn't have a monopoly on the young field, as a few universities in Europe are already on the prowl for faculty well-versed in synthetic bio. Zurich's ETH is among them, which is natural, considering the Synthetic Biology 3.0 conference is slated to take place there next June. Read more about what's on the horizon for synthetic biologists on page 30.

Last year, we also talked with Akhilesh Pandey about his success in using proteomics for genome annotation. Our news story came out right on the heels of work by Pandey and colleagues to identify proteins that help annotate the genome of Anopheles gambiae, malaria's most trustworthy vector. Most recently, Pandey's work hit the journal circuit again when his team published an analysis of the major publicly available databases containing protein-protein interaction information. The paper can be found in December's issue of BMC Bioinformatics. And if that's not enough, check out the protein-protein interaction tech guide in this issue.


It was also last year that an FDA panel voted to re-label warfarin to better gauge starting doses based on the expression of variants of two genes. At this point, the agency is at the tail end of tightening up the language used to include genetic information in warfarin's label. In the meantime, the Harvard Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics has already launched a study to measure the effects on patients when such data is used to make clinical decisions about use of the blood thinning drug. The two-part trial is unique in that it plans to incorporate medical histories with genetics to create an algorithm for determining an appropriate dose for patients.


Five years ago, Genome Technology's cover story brought you a short history of the bioinformatics business. To that end, we profiled the Genetics Computer Group, which got its start as the University of Wisconsin's first bioinformatics core. GCG started small, stayed egalitarian, and generated profits as an independent business before being acquired by Oxford Molecular. When OxMol fell and sold its software business, GCG was acquired by Accelrys. Despite Accelrys' aggressive acquisition strategy, by which it later picked up SciTegic in 2004, all has not been smooth sailing. In early January, the company announced that it will shutter its bioinformatics R&D wing in Bangalore, as part of a restructuring plan slated to be completed by the end of this year.

The Scan

Study Reveals New Details About Genetics of Major Cause of Female Infertility

Researchers in Nature Medicine conducted a whole-exome sequencing study of mote than a thousand patients with premature ovarian insufficiency.

Circulating Tumor DNA Shows Potential as Biomarker in Rare Childhood Cancer

A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that circulating tumor DNA levels in rhabdomyosarcoma may serve as a biomarker for prognosis.

Study Recommends Cancer Screening for Dogs Beginning Age Seven, Depending on Breed

PetDx researchers report in PLOS One that annual cancer screening for dogs should begin by age seven.

White-Tailed Deer Harbor SARS-CoV-2 Variants No Longer Infecting Humans, Study Finds

A new study in PNAS has found that white-tailed deer could act as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 variants no longer found among humans.