DNA

Big data in modern biology

open science beaker

There is now no question that genomics, the study of the genomes of organisms and a field that includes intensive efforts to determine the entire DNA sequence of organisms, has joined the big data club. The development of prolific new DNA sequencing technologies is forcing biologists to embrace the dizzying terms of terabytes, petabytes and, looming on the horizon, exabytes.

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Barriers to open science: From big business to Watson and Crick

Science can only advance when discoveries are shared, but scientists often have a disincentive to disclose their research. So says a group of researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology in their recent article on voxEU.org, Do academic scientists share information with their colleagues? Not necessarily. In fact, scientists often make complex, calculated decisions when asked to share data:

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The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500

The experience of growing up online will profoundly shape the workplace expectations of “Generation F” – the Facebook Generation. At a minimum, they’ll expect the social environment of work to reflect the social context of the web, rather than as is currently the case, a mid-20th-century Weberian bureaucracy.

If your company hopes to attract the most creative and energetic members of Gen F, it will need to » Read more

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GPL for Artificial Life?

The Economist is right on top of the story of the first fully synthetic life-form. For those of you who may have missed the announcement last week, Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith, the two American biologists who unravelled the first DNA sequence of a living organism (a bacterium) in 1995, have pushed the envelope again, demonstrating the first successful boot-up of a synthetic bacterium. » Read more

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Gene patenting and free software: a breakthrough

Last week, to the surprise of patent lawyers and the biotechnology industry, advocates for technological freedom won an enormous victory against socially harmful distortions of patent law.  The Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York held invalid patents owned by Myriad Genetics on diagnostic testing for genetic susceptibility to the most common hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer.  By "patenting" the right to determine whether the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are present in the relevant mutated form in a women's genome, Myriad Genetics has been able to exclude all other laboratories from conducting the test.  Patients and their insurers have paid much more, and women and their families have waited crucial weeks longer than necessary for information relevant to treatment and potentially affecting survival.   » Read more

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