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Did You Double-Check that Sequence?

Bosco at the Trapped in the U.S.A. blog wants to know if you've ever made a protein sequencing error. If you ever have, you probably know at little about how the researchers at now-defunct biotech company Genetics Institute felt when they realized that three errors out of 166 amino acids in the protein sequence of erythopoietin, or Epo, cost them $2 billion in lost income and a very valuable patent. Bosco tells the story of the race between Genetics Institute and Amgen to find the correct sequence for Epo — but whereas Amgen was working with Leroy Hood, Genetics Institute's researchers found themselves struggling to figure out why nothing they were doing was working. By the time they figured it out, Amgen had won the race. Amgen got FDA approval for EPO in 1989, and it's now worth $2 billion in income, or about half of Amgen's income in 2002, Bosco says. "Amgen became a biotech behemoth, whereas Genetics Institute eventually got bought out by Wyeth. And all because of of 3 errors in the sequencing of the protein," he adds.