A few weeks ago, I did some "back-of-the-envelope" calculations to explain to a reader why genome sequencing costs so much. I estimated that, if JCV's genome were sequenced at the cost advertised by university core laboratories, his genome would cost about $128 million. That was an estimate, of course. But what did it really cost? Genome Technology asked J. Craig himself. In the October 2007 issue of GT, JCV estimates that the cost from the first Celera human genome project ( ... Read more
Two protein structures from an avian influenza virus are shown below. One form of the protein makes influenza virus resistant to Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) Don't worry, these proteins aren't from H5N1, but they do come from a related influenza virus that also infects birds.

One protein structure is from a strain that is sensitive to an anti-viral drug called "Tamiflu®". The other structure is from the same virus, except there's a slight difference. A single base change in the viral RNA changed the codon that tells the translation ... Read more
One of my readers asked: Why does genome sequencing cost so much? My short answer is because it's big. But I thought it would be fun to give a better answer to this question, especially since I'm sure many of you are wondering the same thing. Okay, so let's do some math. Don't worry, this math isn't very complicated and I'll explain where most of the numbers come from. Estimating costs from salaries First, we'll take the easy route. My experience with grant budgets has taught me that the greatest cost for any project comes from salaries. If ... Read more

If you've read any of the many stories lately about Craig Venter or Jim Watson's genome, you've probably seen a "SNP" appear somewhere. You may be wondering, and rightly so: just what is a SNP?

Never fear, hopefully this post will answer some of those questions.

SNP stands for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism. That's a mouthful. It means some people, will have one base at a certain position, in a sequence of bases, and other people will have a different base at that position. The two forms of SNP are called "alleles." (Usually there are two forms, but that's ... Read more

"Come quickly, Watson," said Sherlock Holmes, "I've been asked to review a mysterious sequence, whose importance I'm only now beginning to comprehend." The unidentified stranger handed Holmes a piece of paper inscribed with symbols and said it was a map of unparalleled value. Holmes gazed thoughtfully at the map, then slowly lifted his eyes and coldly surveyed his subject's beaming countenance. "You have an affinity for the ocean," said Holmes, "that you indulged to excess as a reckless youth. An experience as a medic in the military changed your ... Read more
Some of them work for Bayer.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a nice article on a 15 year old education program in Berkeley that serves students from Berkeley High and Life Academy. Over 1500 students have participated in this program, with 862 placed in internships. I really liked reading about some of the kids who started in the Bayer Biotech partners program and finding out what they're doing now. One of those interviewed started the
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Why the ABRF of course!i-8b04187b7fb64bd408c576af1e9411ee-trace.gif I spend a fair amount time every summer giving workshops for college and high-school teachers on genomics and bioinformatics. One of the things that always surprises them, is the amount of lab work that's carried out by people working in shared, or core lab facilities. For example, if I was working at a research university and I wanted to sequence some DNA, maybe ... Read more
I get asked this question often enough and now that's it's come up again, it seems that I might as well answer it once and for all and get it over with. First, I want to change the question. Of course they don't need to learn programming. A better question is would it benefit biologists to learn programming? My flip half-way serious answer is yes, if they want to change careers. You see, programming is really seductive when you've been a wet-bench biologist. It's like heroin. (At least I suspect it is, I know about programming ... Read more
If you've read the previous posts on this topic, here and here, you're probably aware by now that I have this weird (okay, maybe fanatical) obsession with data. Or at least, with knowing if my data are right so I can get on with life, do the analysis and figure out the results. My results from last week suggested that re-processing chromatogram data (from the ABI 3730) ... Read more
Sometimes asking a question can be a mistake. Especially when your question leads to more questions and having to question things that you didn't want to question, and pretty soon you begin to regret ever opening the file and looking at the data and asking the question in the first place. Sigh. Take a deep breath. Yesterday through a twist of fate, I ended up taking a look at the DNA sequences produced by two different base calling programs from the same chromatogram file, from an ABI 3730 DNA sequencing instrument. I thought they would be the same, or at least similar.

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