personalized medicine

Lee Hood: Salesman for Science, Part I

Podcast brought to you by the upcoming Personalized Medicine World Conference taking place in Mountain View, CA, January 28-29. Over 100 speakers in three tracks will discuss how best to navigate the changing landscape of personalized medicine.


Dr. Lee Hood, Founder, Institute for Systems Biology Bio and Contact Info

Listen (2:08) Where did you learn to be such a great salesman for science?

Listen (11:45) What led you to be at the confluence of disparate disciplines?

Listen (4:15) Emancipation from the university system

Listen (8:40) At the end of 2012 how far along are we on the journey to P4 Medicine?

Today's interview covers some very broad topics and comes in two parts. It could only be done with an industry Titan, a scientist, an entrepreneur, a visionary, and a great salesman. Our guest is Lee Hood, founder of the Institute for Systems Biology.

I've been looking forward to having Dr. Hood to the program since we started, and delighted that it worked out now. During the interview, you'll hear Lee's take on some of our common topics here at Mendelspod. First, I explore Lee's foresight in bringing together biology and engineering. This has proved a beautiful marriage and led to Lee's direct involvement in the design of the automated DNA sequencer. This discussion has further implications for Dr. Hood, as this was the first of several paradigm shifts he's been part of. In fact, paradigm shifts have been a study of his and a theme throughout his career. He says an early mentor at Caltech urged him to "be on the cutting edge."

It's not easy being at the cutting edge, breaking paradigms. Dr. Hood had to leave the university system to found his dream environment for research and education, the Institute for Systems Biology. Dr. Hood talks about that step as a defining moment for him and his ideas. He explains the core ideas on which the Institute is founded and relates them to the broader picture of healthcare. Rather than healthcare, he predicts we'll call it the wellness industry.

Another favorite topic at Mendelspod is the role of the scientist in society. More and more,scientific discoveries and technology dictate the course of human life. When asked whether scientists are the world's new rulers, Dr. Hood tells the anecdote of his brief flirtation with the idea of running for senator in Montana.

It's obvious that Lee's home state played an important role in his life. He attributes his confidence to the independence he felt at the behest of his mother and the opportunity to hike and experience the wilderness. He was exposed to an academic setting in highschool and recalls that often academic pursuits were combined with trips into the wild.

Finally I ask Dr. Hood a question that came from the audience about whether tax dollars should fund bad science. His answer is nuanced and thoughtful. He warns of being to cynical of 'bad science' or non-reproducable research. He goes on to make the point that there is Big Science and Small Science. He calls the NIH a funder of small science.

Dr. Hood's experience is vast. He's a great thinker. He's an innovator, concerned with a big vision. He's also been able to sell his vision, achieving remarkable success. We've split the interview into two because I just couldn't bring myself to stop Dr. Hood after 30 minutes. A listen through to both shows brings one very close to understanding what our industry is all about.

(Editor's Note: On 12/21/12, Dr. Hood was awarded a National Medal of Science.)

Eugenics Not Just a Thing of the Past: Nathaniel Comfort and "The Science of Human Perfection"

Podcast brought to you by: Assay Depot - the world's largest cloud-based Research Exchange for pharmaceutical research services.


Nathaniel Comfort, Science Historian, Author Bio and Contact Info

Listen (3:49) A different viewpoint on genetics

Listen (7:45) Garrod and Galton, two different early visions for genetics

Listen (6:12) An uneasy relationship between medicine and eugenics

Listen (5:27) State control vs individual control

Listen (5:56) Is yours a provocative message?

Listen (1:35) Did early geneticists foresee genetics becoming such big business?

Listen (4:09) Genetics and the 2012 election

Listen (3:34) Genetics not the only tool

Most of us think of the eugenics movement as a blemish on American history. How could they think like that, we ask. But in his latest book, The Science of Human Perfection: How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine, science historian Nathaniel Comfort talks about the ongoing current of eugenics throughout the last hundred years and more. "Genetics became medical, and medicine became genetic through eugenics," Comfort says recounting the themes of his book. Anyone who makes their livelihood in genetics will find Comfort's meticulous and well researched argument compelling. Comfort says that there are some using the word eugenics again in a positive light, and he says it's his job as historian to record it. Always the skeptic--see his blog at --Comfort urges us at the end of the book to remember that genetics is a powerful tool, but there are other tools as well in the kit.

Nathaniel also weighs in on the presidential election and Prop 37 in California requiring labeling of GMOs.

Personalized Medicine: A New Industry Struggles Toward Birth

Some argue that medicine has always been personal. Personalized medicine as we think of it today has become the industry that is advancing the understanding of the human body at the molecular level. Since the sequencing of the human genome, this new industry has topped the news, often with much hype but little to show. Last week, Burrill and Co put on their 8th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference in San Francisco.

Tumor Heterogeneity and Personalized Medicine

My recent blog post, Tumor heterogeneity, revealed…, discussed the New England Journal of Medicine article by Gerlinger and colleagues describing the genetic heterogeneity found both within a patient’s individual tumor nodules and between spatially separate nodules. There has been a substantial amount of discussion of this work and angst about how it might signal the end of personalized medicine even before it really got started.

Our Take on Personalized Medicine World Conference 2012: The Road to Commercialization

This week we attended the <a href="" targe=_blank">Personalized Medicine World Conference 2012 in Mountain View, CA. Though sequencing continues to dominate the show, this year there was much more focus on the commercialization of existing technologies for better, more tailored health outcomes. Some news that came just after the conference gave a nice punctuation to the feeling that personalized medicine is here to stay.

Sequencing (of course)

Ion Sequencing with Paul Billings, Life Tech

Podcast Sponsor: As the year takes off, we thank all our sponsors who have made mendelspod possible.

Affymetrix, Biotix, Epitomics, IDT, Ingenuity, Lab Roots, Laboratory Products Sales, Mo Bio, Science Exchange, Singulex, Traitwise


Paul Billings, CMO, Life Technologies Bio and Contact Info

Listen (5:37) Ion type sequencing

Listen (3:33) Quality

Listen (4:33) Open source collaboration with customers

Listen (1:37) PCR in the age of sequencing

Listen (5:55) Advancing into clinical market

Listen (3:07) A transition period

Listen (2:18) Bioinformatics the bottleneck

Listen (4:36) Genomic Medicine Institute at El Camino Hospital

Listen (6:15) Were the doctors receptive?

Listen (5:10) Member of FDA committee

Listen (1:50) Why did you give up medical practice?

Listen (1:23) Why the fleece jacket?

Today we begin a Special Series entitled "Sequencing and Genomic Medicine." The series will include interviews with the leading companies in the genomic sequencing space. In all of the interviews I will ask about the application of sequencing into the clinic, exploring the promise of genomic medicine. Our first show is with Dr. Paul Billings, chief medical officer at Life Technologies.

This week at the JP Morgan conference in San Francisco, Life Technologies’ CEO, Greg Lucier, announced it is taking orders for a new benchtop sequencer, the Ion Proton. The upgrade to their Personal Genome Machine is said to sequence a human genome in 2 hours for $1,000. The $1000 genome has long been thought the benchmark for when sequencing would go into the clinic. The recent announcement of the proton makes our interview with Dr. Billings, recorded earlier, even more salient.

UPDATE: We talk with Paul from the CES about the Proton (1/11/12)

Best of mendelspod - Highlights 2011

Podcast Sponsor: Ingenuity- iReport: The fastest way to get meaning from your expression data

Listen (3:50) Steve Burill: New Model for Big Pharma

Listen (7:06) Dan Vorhaus: The Myriad Case

Listen (3:36) Russ Altman: Personal Genomics and Patent Law

Listen (3:43) Mike Snyder: Million Dollar Interpretation

Listen (2:50) Howard McLeod: PGENI

Listen (2:08) Jonathan Eisen: Why Open Science?

Listen (3:12) George Church: Scientists and the Public

Listen (4:25) Ron Davis: Fit Between University and Industry

Listen (3:01) Greg Scott-Will China Soon Have a Steve Jobs?

As we approach the last day of 2011, we thought we’d look back and bring you highlights of the year, the very best of mendelspod. Included in today’s show are snippets from industry leaders on personalized medicine, the evolution of big pharma, gene patents, and thoughts on open science.

NOTE: It’s important to acknowledge that mendelspod has been made possible through the generous support of our sponsors throughout the year. We thank all of them for their partnership. We wish them and all of you a very happy holiday.