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{bio,medical} informatics

Saturday, June 17, 2000

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The Boston Globe Heart study will sell patient data for profit
"Patient data from the world-famous Framingham Heart Study - the pioneering research into heart attacks and strokes that has been available free of charge for 50 years - for the first time will be sold for a profit under a new venture started by the study's sponsor, Boston University.

The university has struck a deal with a group of venture capitalists, who have committed $21 million to form Framingham Genomic Medicine Inc.

The company will use the heart study's vast collection of genetic, clinical, and behavioral data from the 10,000 participants, all families from Framingham, to create a huge electronic database. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are expected to pay annual fees to access the treasure trove of medical information."

"The Framingham Heart Study, which has been collecting data from families who live in its namesake city west of Boston for 52 years, has accumulated vast amounts of information, including 500,0000 chest X-rays and electrocardiograms, 5,000 blood samples, and truckloads of paper medical records that include diet diaries and early studies of male balding patterns. The heart study also owns 160 computer databases."
redux [02.25.00]
Science U.K. Plans Major Medical DNA Database
[summary - can be viewed for free once registered]
"Following the examples of Iceland, Sweden, and Estonia, the United Kingdom is drawing up plans to create a national database linking the DNA of 500,000 of its citizens to their medical records and lifestyle details. Its main goal is to tease apart the genetic and environmental components of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer and, eventually, to come up with new drugs to treat--or even prevent--these conditions. An expert panel is currently hammering out a strategy for setting up the database and is due to report its recommendations next month.”

redux [05.26.00]
British Medical Journal Genetic epidemiology
"Research in disease aetiology has shifted towards investigating genetic causes, powered by the human genome project. Successful identification of genes for monogenic disease has led to interest in investigating the genetic component of diseases that are often termed complex, that is, they are known to aggregate in families but do not segregate in a mendelian fashion. Genetic epidemiology has permitted identification of genes affecting people's susceptibility to disease, although progress has been much slower than many people expected. While the role of genetic factors in diseases such as hypertension, asthma, and depression is being intensively studied, family studies and the large geographical and temporal variation in the occurrence of many diseases indicate a major role of the environment. Thus, it is necessary to consider findings about susceptibility genes in the context of a population and evaluate the role of genetic factors in relation to other aetiological factors. This article discusses some approaches used to resolve the genetic architecture of disease and to study the relation of genes to environmental factors in the population. "

[ rhetoric ]

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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