One of the original Celera team that worked on the Human Genome Project, Gene Myers is now setting up the new Center for Systems Biology at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics.
However, unlike many others such centers, the main focus of this institute will not be genomics. Rather Myers is going for microscopy.
“Genomics is only about 20% of it,” he says in today’s interview from his office in Dresden, Germany
Myers feels that genomics is overcrowded. He wants to look at the “rest of the stuff” which he finds to be “the most important." Seeing that human genomics was more a matter of scaling after the Humah Genome Project, Myers scientific curiosity led him into microscopy where he seeks to take images of transgenic constructs in the cell and build computer models of basic biology.
"Now that we have reference quality genomes of a number of model organisms, we can do transgenics at scale,” says Myers. "We can take any protein or any promoter and see where it’s being expressed in the cell, and in which cells. And that ability--to basically watch any given protein of interest--has been a huge accelerant to the discovery of biological phenomenon."
With much improved imaging—from better, cheaper cameras to the availability of digital storage—Myers envisions that microscopy will be the breakthrough new platform for biological discovery, similar to what sequencing has been.
“It’s my belief, that if I can build that platform, that people will come and look at transgenic constructs over and over again until we have a very complete atlas of what’s going on in the cells at each point in time,” he says.
What is the biggest challenge to developing such a platform? Myers says the key will be adaptive optics, imaging technology that can adapt for the limitations and aberration of light in the cell.