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Bioinformatics 'Cacophony', Genomics of Infectious Disease Research, Gene Patenting Wars Continue, More


For its July 2002 issue, with New York City still reeling from the attacks of September 11, 2001, Genome Technology profiled a company called Gene Codes Forensics. Its staff was collecting DNA samples from the relatives of victims killed in the disaster to develop a DNA-matching program that could help identify remains found in the wreckage.

The resulting program was called the Mass Fatality Identification System, and Gene Codes used it after the 2004 Thailand tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and for various human rights projects. In March 2010, Gene Codes sued New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for $10 million in damages, saying the city misappropriated its victim ID software. The city has asked the court to dismiss the case.

In August 2002, GT wrote about the "bioinformatics Tower of Babel," saying that bioinformaticians were "trying desperately" to communicate with their data. Now, with the coming of the $1,000 genome, bioinformaticians are cognizant of the need for analysis solutions that can handle the massive amounts of data coming from sequencers. While cloud computing is seen as one option, others are using Apple's mobile iOS and looking into high-performance computing.

Five years ago, GT explored the various ways 'omics technologies were being used to combat infectious diseases like tuberculosis and dengue fever. A report released by research company RNCOS this May said the infectious disease molecular diagnostics market is enjoying "healthy growth" and estimated the market would continue to grow at an annual rate of about 10 percent through 2015, with companies like Roche Molecular Diagnostics and Gen-Probe leading the way.

And at this time last year, gene patenting was on nearly everyone's mind, with Myriad Genetics and the American Civil Liberties Union waiting for a decision from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit about whether the company could patent the BRCA genes. In August 2011, the court ruled Myriad's patents valid. The ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation appealed to the US Supreme Court, which declined in March to make a decision and instead declared that the appeals court should take another look at its previous ruling.

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