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Thursday, April 20, 2000

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The LA Times Biotech Firm's Mix-Up on Fly Genome Creates a Stir
"In a scientific mix-up that has gene researchers buzzing, the biotechnology company that deciphered the genetic code of the fruit fly inadvertently included stretches of human genetic material in data it posted on a public Web site.

The error by Maryland-based Celera Genomics was discovered by federal officials who monitor GenBank, the database where the codes of the fly and other creatures are freely available. The company retracted the information a few days ago, soon after being told of the error.

The mix-up, which is unlikely to cause any lasting scientific damage, has nonetheless become another issue dividing the scientific community at a time when Celera and a consortium of public genome centers are racing to complete and publish a working draft of the human genetic code. Scientists with the public Human Genome Project say that the discovery of human genetic code fragments and other more vexing errors in Celera's fly data are evidence of the company's rush to publish and the pressures of competition. Some wryly compare the mix-up to the plight of the genetically confused part-human, part-fly character in the classic horror movie "The Fly.""

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Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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