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Wednesday, May 10, 2000

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Wired Genomics: Academics in the Dust?
"With increasing numbers of academics jumping ship to reap the rewards of IPO-filing biotech companies, universities could be left in the dust instead of heading the charge in genetic research.

That's why Vanderbilt University has recently become the first academic institution to purchase a genomics database subscription. The move is intended to give the university a leg up in bioinformatics, a discipline the private sector has already mastered.

Vanderbilt doesn't have a bioinformatics department per se, which is one reason the university decided to purchase the database, Magnuson said.

Critics say the database subscription is a quick fix -- essentially a Band-Aid for a larger problem.

"In my view the answer is not to go out and buy a genomics database. The answer is to recruit and retain people in the schools of bioinformatics," said Richard Gibbs, director of the human genome sequencing center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

"I personally think the critical issue is building a bioinformatics infrastructure. It's the lifeblood of biology now and will be for the next unknown number of years," Gibbs added."

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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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