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{bio,medical} informatics

Friday, July 21, 2000

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HMS Beagle Genes on the Web
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"Harvard University's recent conference Internet & Society 2000: Changing Our Lives (IS2K), held May 31 - June 2, 2000, included an exciting breakout session called "Genes on the Web." A panel of experts discussed how the Internet accelerates discoveries related to the human genome and spreads the information to researchers. In the introduction, Josh Lerner of the Harvard Business School called the current state of genomics research the "marriage of information technology with biotechnology and bioinformatics.""

"George Church of the Harvard Medical School sees the Human Genome Project as part of the Internet revolution. Church believes that the project to sequence the human genome displays a "community spirit of cooperation unprecedented in human genetics." In the past, labs hoarded their genetic data. Now, there's a 24-hour standard for posting genomic data on the Web, and input from research labs and biopharmaceutical and genomics companies soon follows."
redux [06.30.00]
Wired Biotech: The Internet, With Soul
"The flood of knowledge that will follow the human genome map will answer many questions, but experts pointed out that some questions just can't be answered, even by unraveling each of the 3.2 billion chemical letters that make us human."

"Nonetheless, [Incyte's CEO Randy] Scott said answers in medicine will come fast. Both Moore's Law and Metcalfe's Law will accelerate the speed of progress in the biotech industry, replicating the growth of the computer and Internet industries.

"The effect of Moore's Law is pretty straightforward," Scott said. Moore's Law, conceived by Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel, maintains that computer power doubles every 18 months. In biology, DNA sequencing rates are doubling every year.

"While you may recognize that the Human Genome Project has been going on for the past ten years, you may not realize that all of the sequencing for the human genome has happened in the last year, and over 50 percent of that just within the last four months," said Scott."

"Metcalfe's Law, Scott said, will help researchers waste less and make discoveries faster. Conceived by Robert Metcalfe who invented the ethernet, the law states that the power of a network increases exponentially with the number of computers connected to it."

Right now up to 80 percent of research is wasted, because graduate students and postdocs repeat past experiments as part of their training, and scientists refuse to share their research until it's published, which can be up to two years after the results are compiled.

"Metcalfe's Law is going to do to biology what the Internet has done to e-commerce," he said. "It's going to connect vast groups of people who previously didn't talk."

"Instead of putzing around in the lab for weeks or months, scientists will search Web-based databases to quickly narrow their ideas and devise experiments that they know they are unique and relevant."

[ 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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