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{bio,medical} informatics

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

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Individual.Com Healtheon/WebMD (HLTH) and Netscape (NSCP) Founder Clark
"Clark is the only person in history to have guided three companies from inception to becoming public companies with more than one billion in market cap each. In addition to privately held Shutterfly and, Jim is currently hard at work on his sixth startup: DNA Sciences."

"DNA Sciences is focused on exploiting the genome information and specifically finding the genotypes variations in genes that give rise to the genes that are associated with certain diseases. The variations in those genes that give rise to variance of that disease and treatment for that disease so the company is heavily focused on gene applications in the genome area."

"Healtheon was driven four or five years ago when I started the company in attempt to try to bring the internet to what I thought was the most inefficient industry in the world, the U.S. Healthcare system. I am still positive and bullish about the company's future. In the case of DNA Sciences it was more because I think it is more immediate. It has a tremendous potential. I put the two companies together and WebMD has a lot of disease affinity groups, if you will. People with breast cancer, prostate cancer, hepatitis, a variety of ailments and we can collect blood samples from people in the groups and identify genes and put them in a specific category to see what the best treatment is."
Bloomberg DeCode Genetics Shares Surge on First Trading Day on Nasdaq
"DeCode Genetics Inc., which is mapping the genes of Iceland's population, saw its shares surge as much as 75 percent in their first day of trading in the U.S. "

"DeCode is taking advantage of Iceland's homogenous population and careful record-keeping to find genes linked to illness."

"Iceland is considered an ideal venue for this type of research because there's little variation in the population's genetic makeup. Settlers who came to the country more than 11 centuries ago remained largely cut off from the rest of the world until World War II.

What's more, Iceland's health-care system, centralized in 1915, has kept careful records, and Icelanders' penchant for genealogy means that family trees can be reconstructed with ease and accuracy. DeCode works with the records and blood samples to build its genetic database."

redux [06.17.00]
Stanford Medical Informatics Preprint Archive Bioinformatics in Support of Molecular Medicine
"Basic biological science has always had an impact on clinical medicine (and clinical medical information systems), and is creating a new generation of epidemiologic, diagnostic, prognostic, and treatment modalities. Bioinformatics efforts that appear to be wholly geared towards basic science are likely to become relevant to clinical informatics in the coming decade. For example, DNA sequence information and sequence annotations will appear in the medical chart with increasing frequency. The algorithms developed for research in bioinformatics will soon become part of clinical information systems. In this paper, I briefly review the intellectual roots of bioinformatics and how the field has evolved in the last few years. Fortunately, a core set of scientific paradigms have provided a focus to the field. Even in this short period, however, there has been a change in the nature of the questions being asked and the types of experiments being attempted. These changes are consistently leading bioinformatics towards problems of clinical relevance. Some molecular biology information systems already have important clinical implications. I will discuss the differences in the culture and approach to science of clinical informatics and bioinformatics, but will argue that the two disciplines share important intellectual challenges which make them very closely allied fields (despite the cultural differences). Finally, I will identify a few areas common to both disciplines where developments in one field may help catalyze faster progress in the other. For example, useful database integration technologies have (arguably) matured more rapidly within bioinformatics than in clinical informatics. At the same time, clinical informatics embraced the idea of controlled terminologies relatively early, and offers lessons to those in bioinformatics attempting similar tasks."

redux [05.15.00]
The New York Times Who Owns Your Genes?
[requires 'free' registration]
""I just wanted to do something good," Mr. Fuchs said. "But once money came into the picture, why not have it be shared with me?"

These days more and more patients are asking the same question. Laboratories offer tests for more than 700 human genes, with more being discovered almost daily. And, for almost every gene, some medical institution or some company owns a patent on its use.

"The value of patients' tissues has potentially gone up enormously," said Dr. Barry Eisenstein, the vice president for science and technology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. But, Dr. Eisenstein said, patients whose cells provided the genes that have been patented are almost never compensated. "

HMS Beagle Caught in secret tests
[requires 'free' registration]
"Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California has settled a class-action suit over genetic and medical testing for more than $2 million. The suit was brought by employees who charged that they were discriminated against and that their privacy was invaded when they were tested for pregnancy, syphilis, and genetic traits without their knowledge. Each of the plaintiffs will get $25,000, and other employees may get $2,000 each. The settlement also covers legal fees estimated at $440,000.

Reference: Lehrman, S. 2000. Medical tests cost Lawrence Berkeley $2.2 million. Nature 405(6783):110."

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.”

[ 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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