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People in the News: Ewan Birney and Helen Berman

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Ewan Birney, associate director and senior scientist at the European Bioinformatics Institute, has been appointed as interim head of the newly launched Center for Therapeutic Target Validation, a public-private research initiative between GSK, EMBL-EBI, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Birney is one of the founders of the Ensembl genome browser and other databases, and has played a key role in many large-scale genomics projects, including the Human Genome Project in 2000 and the ENCODE project. His research group currently focuses on genomic algorithms and inter-individual differences in human and other species. In his role as associate director of the EBI, he is involved in strategic oversight of its activities.


Helen Berman, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University has been selected to receive the Benjamin Franklin Award for Open Access in the Life Sciences from the Bioinformatics Organization. She'll receive the award and deliver a laureate presentation at the Bio-IT World Conference and Expo in April. She is the 13th recipient of the annual prize given to an individual who has, in his or her practice, promoted free and open access to the materials and methods used in the life sciences.

In addition to her appointment at Rutgers, Berman is the director of the RCSB Protein Data Bank. She studied chemistry at Barnard College before earning a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. Before moving to Rutgers in 1989, she worked at Fox Chase Cancer Center for 20 years where she researched nucleic acid crystallography and drug nucleic acid interactions. Her work includes the study of the structures of collagen and protein-nucleic acid complexes, and she has been involved in developing structural databases and ontologies.


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The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.