history of science


The Internet of Biology Revolution-For Real This Time, with Brett Goldsmith, Cardea

Talk to anyone who’s been around diagnostics or blood sampling for long, and they’ll tell you that nanotechnology is nothing new.

Today’s guest, Brett Goldsmith, the Chief Technology Officer at Cardea, says he was involved in the nano revolution that was and then wasn’t 20 years ago. (The older veterans among us might date it back even further, to forty years ago.) So what are Brett and Cardea buzzing about early this year in a new Nature paper?

Biosensors.   They say thier new--and significantly cheaper--ones are capable of integrating the world of biology and digital that will give us instant access to the networks of biological information used by our bodies.  The sensors bypass our existing testing gadgets that use labels and lights and measure directly the biological interaction.  One can imagine "Googling" biological data about yourself.   The argument here isn't new, nor is the technology.  What is new and shown by the Nature paper is a dramatically changed economy of scale for producing the biosensors. Brett claims it is something along the lines of going from $120K down to just $20-30 each.

If you look at Moore’s Law and the dramatic reduction in the price of sequencing as what fed two revolutions, it does appear there’s a case to be made for a similar revolution to be had with biosensors and the possible applications they could enable.

What are the details of the paper? How do Cardea’s sensors work? To whom are they selling them now?

And what kind of data does Cardea have to put out to show the world that they are not Theranos No. 2?!

Gene and Tonic Predictions for 2019

Oops.  We still had some champaign around.  Our look to the year ahead.

2019

January 6th  The best selling non-fiction book on Amazon over the holidays has some strong mature genetics related material in it.   The second chapter of  Advice for Generation Z  is entitled,  “Don’t Take that Cyanide Pill Just Yet: Genetic Tests Are for Fun, Not for Real.”

February 12th  The Oxford English Dictionary adds “Crispred babies” to the lexicon.

Amy Harmon of the NYT on Race & Genetics, Women in Science

At the end of the year, we like to speak with a journalist who covers genetics about some of their stories.

Our audience may remember that back in our October Monthly Review with Nathan and Laura we talked at length about the topic of race and genetics. This was provoked by a few pieces in the New York Times written by Amy Harmon about a new wave of white nationalists using new genetic science to bolster their racism. In fact, talk of race and genetics rose to such a pitch at this year’s ASHG conference that they issued an unusual statement on the topic.

Here to discuss her three pieces on race and genetics (here, here, and here) and another provocative piece the following month on women in science is Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent for the New York Times, Amy Harmon.

 

George Church Has a Point. Do With the Messenger What You Will, Lulu and Nana Are Here.

When we first encounter Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s classic, the scientist has lost all his friends, his wife, his meaning in life because of his science. Now he is frozen half to death out on the sea ice chasing his creation of “gigantic stature” toward the North Pole. It’s the only thing he knows to do. Monster and creator, they are locked in an obsessive battle of existence, creation and loss, birth and death. They both know one thing surely. They have known it all along. There is no going back.

Illumina Concedes on Long Reads, Buys PacBio

At 1:02 pm today, there was a tremor in the world of genomics as it was announced that the two leaders in the field of sequencing have become one company. Goliath has opted to pick David up and put him on his shoulders. Upon first reaction, I'd say three things. 1. High quality long reads are the future of sequencing. Disrupting a standard carried for years in the drive toward the $1,000 genome of quantity over quality, PacBio stepped in and raised the bar for the technology of DNA sequencing.

September 2018 with Nathan and Laura: Studying the Same Genes and the Matt Fender Story

And here we were thinking it was a slow month!

We have two big stories today: first this philosophy of biology question about whether it’s a bad thing that we’ve been stuck circling the wagons ‘round the same ole genes. Is it just an economic question? Or is it that these are the most active genes, and so we need a meritocracy, as Nathan puts forth?

As if on time to answer this question, there’s a new project out this month to synthetically engineer 4,000 copies of a very studied gene, BRCA, which has Laura and other genetic counselors excited. As she explains, it will help with the problem of reducing variants of unknown significance.

And second, we discuss the fallout of Laura’s tour de force article in the New York Times and follow-up Beagle podcast about a young web developer, Matt Fender, who had a real scare with his 23andMe data. Theral says the story sounded an alarm at just the moment many of the field's KOLs are becoming relaxed about regulating DTC tests. Nathan says the story shows that the system is working.

Detective Stories from the Genomic War Room with Ramesh Hariharan

A book like this only comes around once in a while—one never knows from which corner. This time it was written by the CTO of a next gen sequencing data analytics company.

“Every one of these cases was intense. It was just so fascinating that I had to put it down in a book and tell the story. There’s so much in biology that boggles your mind and makes you wonder.”

So says Ramesh Hariharan, author of Genomic Quirks: The Search for Spelling Errors. His new book tells the stories of nine cases he worked on first hand analyzing patient genomes. From the mystery of the author’s own color blindness to a rare childhood disease that took a couple’s two children and left them wondering whether to have another to a daunting instance of abdominal cancer, Ramesh reveals the interplay of three modern industries working at the their pinnacle: molecular biology, clinical medicine, and data analytics.

What makes the book so special is being with a passionate technologist as he discovers his own gift as a writer, to be there when he realizes he can bring the rest of us along on a journey filled with many fantastical twists and turns, dead ends and eureka moments, uncovering the long kept secrets of the human genome. This is different from the product of journalists who get it all second hand. Ramesh's book is personal, a labor of love, rare.

Does it all make him bullish on genomic medicine for the future? He says we’re running out of ideas.

Democracy and Science Have Tea at the White House

The wheels on his navy blue Toyota Prius could be heard squeeling as Science wound down the parking structure in Bethesda.  Yes, it's true, Science's parking spot involved two stories and some undwinding to get out on the open road.  Today Mr. Science was headed to the White House for tea with Ms. Democracy.

As it happens, on this particular day, our Mr. Science is a religious man.  One doesn't know how it happened.  It just happened.

Homo Sapiens (D)Evolves into Homo Medicus

A well known science and medical author, Wades Tudeep, has proposed an upgrade to a famous Shakespeare quote from Hamlet:

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable!  In action how like an Angel!  In apprehension how like a god! . . . [proposed addition] . . . In DNA, what an  encyclopedia of disease!"



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