Archive by category | Biotech & Pharma

Google Health, Biomedical Mutual Organizations and Open Consent

Google Health, Biomedical Mutual Organizations and Open Consent

Google Health, the new service offered by Google is now online (via bbgm, Life as a Healthcare CIO, GTO). This service helps users to store, organize and share their health profile and medical records, to use a variety of health-related online services and to search for medical information. Understandably, Google places great emphasis on data security and confidentiality. In this regard, I thought it might be worth highlighting several recent and thought-provoking discussions around the issues of data privacy and participative medical investigations. In a provocative editorial (Bains, 2007, see also Nature Medicine News article), William Bains advocates that collectives  … Read more

Contrasts: Craig Venter and NSABB on synthetic biology

Contrasts: Craig Venter and NSABB on synthetic biology

Two rather contrasting videos on synthetic biology this month. In the first videocast, released by TED, Craig Venter exposes his grand vision of synthetic genomics. He insists on the notion of ‘combinatorial genomics’, that will combine the power of large scale DNA synthesis (‘robots that can make a million chromosomes a day’) with a database of 20 million genes, ‘the design components of the future’. This approach, a pragmatic mixture of rational function-oriented design and empirical large-scale selection, is envisioned to prepare a modern ‘Cambrian explosion’ of new synthetic species. It is good to see Craig Venter laughing when announcing  … Read more

Consumer Health Information Technology

Consumer Health Information Technology

I highly recommend to visit the NIH VideoCasting page, which hosts many interesting video/podcasts. Even if I realize that this is a bit old according to the blogosphere time scale, I would like to point to this one: “The Future: Consumer Health Information Technology”, featuring talks given at a NCI-sponsored meeting on Dec 10, 2007 by Adam Bosworth (formerly “Google Health architect”, now starting his own company Keas), Bern Shen (Intel) and Bill Crounse (Microsoft). In his introduction to the meeting, Bradford Hesse (NCI) colorfully summarizes one of the main concepts exposed by the speakers (the video is very long,  … Read more

Personal genomics for a fistful of dollars

Personal genomics for a fistful of dollars

The wave of personal genomics is progressing rapidly. A string of four papers appeared recently (Porreca et al, 2007, Albert et al, 2007, Okou et al 2007, Hodges et al, 2007) reporting on microarrray-based technologies that enable the enrichment of selected genomic fragments in a single massively multiplexed reaction, thus greatly facilitating subsequent resequencing of pre-defined portions of the human genome (eg all coding exons). These technologies are expected to reduce dramatically the cost of targeted resequencing of individual genomes.  Read more

The Royal Society calls for views on Synthetic Biology

I just received an email from Kate O’Shea of The Royal Society announcing their “Call for views” on Synthetic Biology. From their website (http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/syntheticbiology):  … Read more

Oversight framework for the DNA-synthesis industry

Oversight framework for the DNA-synthesis industry

Last April, the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity issued a draft report on Biosecurity (see post below). One point of criticism expressed with regard to this report was that it did not address explicitly concerns specific to synthetic biology. In a Commentary published in Nature Biotechnology (Bügl et al, 2007), a panel of scientists, executives from the DNA-synthesis industry and members of the US FBI present now their views and concrete recommendations on measures required for an efficient and practical oversight of DNA-synthesis activities. Rapid progresses in DNA-synthesis technologies are increasingly challenging the current safety measures and oversight  … Read more

Open Source Synthetic Biology

Open Source Synthetic Biology

In a News&Views just published in Molecular Systems Biology, Joachim Henkel & Stephen Maurer expose their views on the economics of synthetic biology (Henkel and Maurer, 2007): Synthetic biology contains almost all of the same ingredients that make embedded Linux successful. First, synthetic biology’s parts approach emphasizes strong modularity. This allows the work of creating a parts library to be spread over many companies. It also makes it possible for companies to earn profits by patenting some parts while making others openly available. Second, we expect companies to have fairly idiosyncratic parts needs. This means that they cannot simply ‘free  … Read more

Systems biology & global warming

Systems biology & global warming

Observations suggest that current climatic models may underestimate how quickly the climate system is changing (in particular for sea level), according to a report in Science a few weeks ago (Rahmstorf et al, 2007). Another Science paper published last week shows that the capacity of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink is weakening, which may result in increased atmospheric CO2 levels in the long run (Le Quere et al, 2007). I remember Hiroaki Kitano calling the systems biology community, in his talk at the ICSB meeting last October in Yokohama, for ideas on how system-level approaches could contribute to address the  … Read more

Open Source Biology

Open Source Biology

Novartis, The Broad Institute, and Lund University today announced the completion of a genome-wide map of genetic differences in humans and their relationship to type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders. All results of the analysis are being made accessible, free of charge on the internet to scientists around the world (Novartis Media Release, Feb 12, 2007) The results of this study are available at http://www.broad.mit.edu/diabetes/ Has the increasing complexity of genome-wide studies and other large-scale systems biology datasets reached a threshold that makes the open source option more attractive to the pharma industry?  Read more