QoD: "I agree with Dr Shiva that the public relations uses of golden rice have gone too far. " -- Gordon Conway, the Rockefeller Foundation
1. Ignorance, myopia and greed
2. We'll create GM humans by 2020, says director of US National Human Genome Research Institute
3. Big Buildup to the Genome: Schools, Companies Constructing Labs For Research Push
1. Ignorance, myopia and greed: some quotes
"We don't know shit about biology" - J. Craig Venter, president of the Celera Corp, who delivered the genome text to Science
"Celera, the private company creating its own genome map, has raised some $1 billion to launch a major push into proteomics" - from item 3
"I wouldn't be surprised if in another 30 years some people will begin to argue that we ought to take charge of our own evolution and should not be satisfied with our current biological status." - Prof Francis Collins, a leading light of the the human genome project (from item 2)
What's remarkable about that statement is the way it ignores all the mainstream scientists already busily pushing that agenda! - see http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/gmhuman.htm
"The potential market is huge." ”” Simon Best, vice-chair of the Bio-Industry Association on the UK's human embryo cloning vote
"As Large Scale Proteomics illustrates, companies are not just mounting such projects for the love of knowledge. The scent of money is in the air.
" "As a scientist you're saying, 'Let's take on the big-science problem and attack it," said William Rich, president and chief executive of Ciphergen Biosystems Inc. of Fremont, Calif., another company in the field. "As a businessman, I'm trying to see where the low-hanging fruit is here." " (from item 3)
"In biotech, the selling point is the potential of the technology - not what it can actually do at the time. Once you end up with a real product, you frequently realize that it's not going to do what you expected it to do." -Alberta embryologist, Brian Shea
"No group of experts should be more aware of the hazards of unwarranted claims than geneticists. After all, it was the exuberance of geneticists early in this century that led to the creation of a discipline called eugenics. These scientists were every bit as clever, competent, and well-meaning as today's genetic engineers." - David Suzuki, professor of genetics
2. We'll create GM humans by 2020, says researcher
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, in Lyons
Friday 9 February 2001
MAN will take charge of his own evolution within a few decades, when it will be possible to produce genetically modified people safely and predictably, according to the director of the United States National Human Genome Research Institute.
Prof Francis Collins said humans are made up of fewer genes than was previously thought and by 2020 it will be possible to create GM humans with reasonable safety by "germ line gene therapy".
Within another decade, this would lead to a "chilling debate" about whether humans should alter their own biology. Prof Collins, one of the senior figure in the global effort to unravel the secrets of the human genetic code, was addressing senior scientists and politicians at the World Life Sciences Forum in Lyons.
He predicted that, within a decade, most common disease genes would be known, general practitioners would begin to use genetic medicine, and widespread debate would be triggered by the use of pre-implantation diagnosis - where embryos can be screened for disease before implantation.
Prof Collins forecast that by 2020 it would be possible to tailor drugs to suit an individual's genetic make-up to ensure that they do not cause side- effects, to design a cancer therapy to combat individual tumours in a patient and to make big advances in treating mental illness.
"We are certainly close to understanding hereditary contributions to mental illness, to schizophrenia, to obsessive compulsive disorder, to autism, in a way that should lead us at last to a better biological understanding of the vexing problems and perhaps an opportunity to stop blaming the victims and treat them as victims of a disease that deserves compassion and better opportunities for therapy."
He believes that by 2020 it will be possible to repair genes before they are passed to the next generation. "I wouldn't be surprised if in another 30 years some people will begin to argue that we ought to take charge of our own evolution and should not be satisfied with our current biological status."
However, he added: "I find this an interesting but somewhat chilling discussion. I think from my own perspective that is an enterprise that I hope we would not undertake for a long time, if ever."
But Prof Collins gave a warning against genetic determinism, the mistaken belief that all human characteristics can be boiled down to DNA so that people are merely "robots that are controlled by invisible signals from our DNA sequences".
He said: "Understanding the human genome will not take away the concept of free will. Understanding the human genome will not help us very much to understand the spiritual side of humankind, or to know who God is or what love is."
The professor underlined this by explaining the perils of using genetics to enhance traits, given the profound influence of environment on behaviour. He described the example of rich parents who hoped to produce a baby genetically enhanced to be artistic and musical but ended up with "a sullen adolescent who smokes marijuana and doesn't talk to them".
At the same time, computer simulations of human cells would be used in medical research to replace animal experiments, and the average human lifespan - in the developed world - would probably stretch to 90. There are a "number of significant surprises" in the forthcoming human genetic code analysis, which will be published in Science and Nature next week in 36 papers.
He said: "We don't have as many genes as we thought we did." The analysis will be a "milestone of the highest order", said Prof Collins. He added that the finished human genetic sequence would be published in 2003.
3. Big Buildup to the Genome
Schools, Companies Constructing Labs For Research Push http://news.altavista.com/scripts/editorial.dll?ei=2383712&ern=y By Justin Gillis 02/09/01
Behind new brick walls in Germantown, drills whir and saws whine as workers put finishing touches on a laboratory unlike any ever built. By the azure waters of San Francisco Bay rises the steel skeleton of a new university research center. Another is going up in Baltimore. A Toronto company lays plans to triple its laboratory space, backed by one of thebiggest names in U.S. business.
Sensing the opportunity of a lifetime, top scientists around the world are preparing huge new laboratories, launching institutes, ordering massive computers and striking collaborations in order to tackle one of mankind's greatest challenges: understanding the human body down to the level of molecules.
Many of the efforts are financed by companies -- and investors -- hoping to profit from new discoveries. The race gets formally underway in a matter of days when two groups -- the publicly funded, internationally celebrated Human Genome Project and its upstart rival, Celera Genomics Corp. of Rockville -- plan to publish the first serious scientific descriptions of the human genome, the entire complement of genetic material that encodes the biology of the human race.
The forthcoming papers are follow-ups to an announcement made last year at the White House that a first draft or map of the genome had been completed.
Detailed maps are still a couple of years away, but the world's leading biological thinkers aren't waiting.
At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, for instance, two anonymous donors have given scientists $100 million to pursue new genetic initiatives.
"This is really astounding that we've gotten to the level where we have databases that we can go in and click and look at almost every region of the human genome," said Chi Dang, Johns Hopkins vice president for research. "It's absolutely wonderful to see this thing emerging as fast as it has. It's a whole new world."
Central to the effort to understand the genome is likely to be an up-and-coming discipline known as proteomics, the study of proteins.
The point of genes is to provide cells with instructions for making proteins, which carry out the molecular functions that keep a human body alive, such as producing energy, breaking down waste and fighting infection. Now, with the fundamental instruction set -- the list of human genes -- nearly in hand, scientists are starting to think about understanding the normal chemistry and biology of every human protein. Then they want to use that knowledge as a springboard to understanding how the normal biology changes in ailments ranging from cancer to depression.
The number of chemical interactions they will eventually need to analyze in detail could easily reach into the billions. The problem is far larger than the effort to map the genome, which has taken more than a decade of work by laboratories around the world. Tackling it will demand researchers schooled not just in biology but in physics, chemistry and computer science, working together on a scale never seen before in the biological sciences.
The building going up in Germantown will house greatly expanded laboratories for a commercial outfit called Large Scale Proteomics Inc. that aims to create an index of all human proteins. The company in Toronto, MDS Proteomics Inc., plans to do something similar with help from International Business Machines Corp., then use the information to find new drugs.
Academic scientists are seizing the initiative, too. California is putting together a new state institute involving three universities, headquartered in a new building on San Francisco Bay, that will bring the "hard sciences" of physics and chemistry to bear in a big way on understanding proteins and their interactions. Johns Hopkins, similarly, is putting up a building to house two institutes and numerous computer scientists devoted to a deeper understanding of genes, proteins and genetic treatments.
Genes can be sliced and diced in various ways to create proteins, so the human body may have 10 or 20 times as many types of proteins as genes, and each one of these can undergo myriad chemical changes. One widely quoted estimate puts the number of chemical interactions scientists ultimately need to understand at a daunting 20 billion.
"Scale is important because the size of the problem is very large," said Frank Gleeson, chief executive of MDS Proteomics. "It's not for the faint of heart."
Thus are visionaries at this moment sketching out proteomics factories, poring over laboratory blueprints and tickling the bellies of rich donors and Wall Street financiers.
Leigh Anderson is one fellow who thinks he's on the path to the future of biological research. He strode from room to room of the new Germantown laboratory the other day, pointing out design features as workmen strung pipes and wires.
The company he runs is Large Scale Proteomics, a Gaithersburg subsidiary of Large Scale Biology Inc. of Vacaville, Calif. It has been around for 15 years under different names, supporting itself with government grants and relatively small-scale projects paid for by drug companies. But Anderson said it became clear recently, as genetic science matured, that the company had to "get big or die." Large Scale Biology raised $90 million in a public share offering in August and a good bit of the money is going into the Germantown lab.
Some of the techniques that Large Scale Proteomics plans to employ are already in use, but the company wants to use robots and automation to speed them up enormously. It is finding that the equipment to do so simply doesn't exist yet on the commercial market, so much of it is being custom-built in local machine shops.
A prime goal for the company is simply to produce a list of all human proteins. It will involve laborious steps to purify proteins out of cells and analyze their composition. Large Scale Proteomics wants to figure out which proteins are present in unusually large or small quantities in diseased tissues, a step toward finding the molecular roots of a given disease. Another major project will be to use the protein information to learn more about how drugs work, especially why certain ones cause bad side effects.
"The key message is: It's the proteins, stupid," Anderson said. "That's where the action is."
As Large Scale Proteomics illustrates, companies are not just mounting such projects for the love of knowledge. The scent of money is in the air.
The proteomics companies are betting, for instance, that drug companies will pay dearly for information that helps them determine which drugs are likely to cause side effects by interfering with desirable proteins. That would permit them to avoid spending hundreds of millions of dollars on human tests before the problems come to light. For similar reasons, Celera, the private company creating its own genome map, has raised some $1 billion to launch a major push into proteomics.
"As a scientist you're saying, 'Let's take on the big-science problem and attack it," said William Rich, president and chief executive of Ciphergen Biosystems Inc. of Fremont, Calif., another company in the field. "As a businessman, I'm trying to see where the low-hanging fruit is here."
Academic scientists chasing the new field are somewhat reluctant to refer to their work as "proteomics," fearing that it has become a Wall Street buzzword. One exception is Harvard University, which has started an Institute of Proteomics. But under several names, universities plan to do much the same kind of work as the private companies, albeit with more of a focus on basic science and less on commerce.
The universities are beginning to receive money for their endeavors from the National Institutes of Health. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy, which controls this country's national laboratories, is making a major push into protein research. Some work is underway already and a DOE advisory panel has recommended that the Bush administration commit some $200 million a year for a broad new initiative.
"The technology of the genome project pales in comparison to what's required for the next stage," Ari Patrinos, associate director of biological and environmental research at the Department of Energy, said in an interview. "The instruments of big-time science are going to be central to the next stage."
At Johns Hopkins, some of the $100 million it has received is going to a large new building, now under construction, that's likely to become a showplace of gene and protein research. It will also focus on disease treatments using genetically manipulated human cells. A second building is on the drawing board.
Perhaps the most ambitious academic program to date is in California, where Gov. Gray Davis has led the creation of a new Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology and Quantitative Biomedical Research, a broad initiative referred to by its backers as QB3.
It will involve three universities but will be headquartered at the University of California at San Francisco, where gene-splicing techniques first came to the fore in the 1970s. A building that will house a big part of the institute is under construction at a site called Mission Bay on San Francisco's waterfront.
The basic idea is to bring physics, chemistry, engineering and intensive computing to bear on biological problems. At the outset, much work will go into perfecting advanced techniques for understanding the three-dimensional structure of proteins, a critical step in deducing their function in the body.
Zach Hall, executive vice chancellor of research at UCSF, sees the institute as an example of a new way of asking large biological questions. Instead of starting from hypotheses about how the body works and spending years to confirm them one gene or protein at a time, he said, science is reaching the point where it can move in the other direction, scanning human biology in its entirety and letting answers emerge from the mass of resulting data.
The new mood, he said, is "let's just go in and look at. Let's look at all the proteins. Our techniques are so powerful we can scan everything and figure it out from there."