A year ago in Genome Technology, our cover story looked at what big pharma wanted. A survey of senior managers turned up several potential holy grails: pathway data and disease associations; a clear naming rubric to avoid confusion; better informatics tools to handle more and more data; lower sequencing costs; RNAi reagents for every gene; and superior gene expression technology.
We don’t know of any magic bullet to handle these wishes, but at least some progress has certainly been made in most of these fields over the past year. And if pharma means what it says about embracing systems biology (see cover story, p. 30), the managers we spoke with may find that solutions to their problems are being developed in-house.
Another article last year checked on NHGRI’s plans for its next five-year program. In April 2003, the institute published its vision for the future along with the finished sequence of the human genome. Based on nearly two years’ worth of talks with some 600 scientists, the plan included 15 grand challenges targeted at genomes in biology, health, and society.
In January 2003, the community was still abuzz with the news that a scientist had built a synthetic poliovirus. Almost a year later, Craig Venter’s Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives celebrated the assembly of a synthetic bacteriophage phi X, completed in 14 days (see p. 17). Throughout the year, debates continued over whether genome sequences of potentially dangerous organisms such as anthrax should be published, with scientists and congressional leaders largely at an impasse.
In last February’s edition, our cover story was an in-depth Q&A with Peter Coggins, president of PerkinElmer’s Life and Analytical Sciences business unit. Coggins argued that PerkinElmer was more customer-oriented than its competitors, and outlined a new service plan: PE engineers would repair any instrument, not just ones from PE.
Finally, Arthur Holden wrote in last year to urge fellow genomics folks to remain optimistic. 2003, he predicted, would be a better year for the field. Indeed, genomics (and biotech in general) picked up steam even ahead of the general lift in the stock market. As you’ll see in this issue, layoffs continue, but at a much slower rate than we saw a year ago. Here’s to an even better 2004.