Transducing The Genome: Information, Anarchy, and Revolution in the Biomedical Sciences

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Date

January 17, 2001

Format

Electronic book text, 269 pages

ISBN

0071381333 / 9780071381338

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Overview


Main description

In this important book, a scientist gives us an inside account of the historic paradigm shift underway in the life sciences as a result of The Human Genome Project, and provides a philosophical framework in which to understand biology and medicine as information sciences. In a story told on many fascinating levels, Gary Zweiger introduces us to the visionaries who first understood genes as information carriers and chronicles how their early efforts led to the birth of the new science of genomics. He provides insights into the uneasy collaboration of private, government, and academic efforts, the role of the pharmaceutical companies, and the influence of venture capitalists on one of the most ambitious and potentially significant scientific undertakings in history. Most importantly, he explores the profound impact that the transducing of biological information into a digital format already has had on biological research and medicine, and the equally profound effect it is sure to have on our understanding of ourselves and all living creatures.


Table of contents

Cancer, Computers, and a "List-Based" Biology. Information and Life. Behold the Gene. Working with Genes One at a Time. The Database. Getting the Genes. Prospecting for Genes with ESTs. ESTs, the Gene Race, and Moore's Law. The End Game. Human Genome History. Comparing Human Genomes. A Paradigm in Peril. The Ancient Internet - Information Flow in Cells. Accessing the Information Output of the Genome. The Genomics Industry. The SNP Race. From Information to Knowledge. The Final Act. Future Prospects.


Author comments

Gary Zweiger, PhD is a geneticist and Director of Business Development and Strategic Planningat Agilent Technologies, a leading producer of DNA microarrays (gene chips) and other biomedical tools. Prior to joining Agilent, he was Senior Strategic Advisor at Incyte Genomics, Inc., a founding company in the genomics industry. He has also worked as a consultant to venture capitalists, investment bankers, and other early backers of the emerging genomics industry, and has taught classes in human biology and biotechnology at several colleges. While at Incyte, Dr. Zweiger studied thousands of genes by using enormous biological databases and designed several powerful microarrays to help further his research into the molecular changes that accompany prostate, breast, colon, and pediatric cancers.


Back cover copy

The announcement, in Spring 2000, that the human genome had been fully sequenced, was met with fanfare around the world. Described by zealous journalists as the "cracking of the DNA code," this monumental achievement had, we were told, opened the door to a bold new understanding of life and unimaginable benefits for humankind. Yet, most of us, including many scientists, continue to be at a loss to explain the practical significance of a seemingly endless, unbroken string of ACTGs representing the 3.1 billion base molecules making up human DNA.

In Transducing the Genome, scientist Gary Zweiger provides us with our most lucid explanation yet of the significance of the Human Genome Project and the dramatic paradigm shift that it has engendered in the life sciences. He explains how the marriage of information technology and biology necessitated by the race to sequence the human genome has led to the emergence of genomics, a revolutionary new science that provides unprecedented access to the processes of life. Going beyond the traditional one-gene-one-trait approach, genomics transduces biological data into digital information, which then can be analyzed and manipulated using powerful computer algorithms, data mining tools, and other advanced information technologies to reveal meaningful patterns among vast networks of millions of life's molecules.

In a story told on many fascinating levels, Zweiger­­who has worked at the center of the action at Stanford University and at such companies as Genentech and Incyte­­takes us inside private and government labs around the globe, where gene sequencers daily generate information about the billions of nucleotides making up DNA. He introduces us to the visionaries who first understood genes as information carriers and chronicles how their early efforts led to the birth of genomics. He identifies the major players in the Human Genome Project today, including familiar figures such as Craig Venter of Genentech and Randall Scott of Incyte, and he provides insights into the uneasy collaboration of private, government, and academic efforts; the role of the pharmaceutical companies; and the influence of venture capitalists on one of the most ambitious and potentially significant scientific undertakings in history.

And, perhaps most importantly, Dr. Zweiger explores the profound impact that the transducing of biological information into digital format already has had on biological research and medicine, and the equally profound effect it is certain to have on our understanding of ourselves and all living creatures.

An enthralling, behind-the-scenes look at the dramatic transformation of biology into an information science and how it is revolutionizing science's understanding of life at the molecular level

"This is a great story told from an unusual perspective, tapping the innovative zeal of the private sector and focusing on the information embedded in DNA. Zweiger comes from the company that was first to recognize how whiz-bang high-tech biology could be combined with information technologies to produce great commercial (and social) value. It's an insider's perspective on a Byzantine world involving complex, mathematically rich science, bleeding-edge technology, business decision making in the face of uncertainty, and a thicket of legal and social concerns that could turn into big problems....I think this will be a most welcome addition to the growing genomics literature, one whose greatest strengths are the emphasis on the informatic content of DNA, the importance of technologies for detection variation, and the power of the private sector to foster innovation."
­­Robert Cooke-Deegan, author of The Gene Wars: Science, Politics and the Human Genome

"Gary Zweiger has produced an outstanding history of research in Genomics. He has captured the flavor of the Genomics community, showing us its origins, and the profound influence of three major elements in its development: the revolution in computer and information technology, the investment and entrepreneurial mind-set in northern California, and the personalities that provided the scientific fodder for this economic hopper. Wonderful imagery is used throughout to educate the uninitiated, and entertain as well as surprise the cognoscente. Transducing the Genome is a wonderfully readable and enjoyable book that shows us where Genomics came from, and where it is taking us."
­­Leonard H. Augenlicht, Ph.D., Professor, Medicine and Cell Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Hospital/Oncology





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