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Snippets from a symposium

April 20, 2010

Two anecdotes from yesterday’s talks on “Systems Biology and Global Health”….

1. Clif Barry‘s talk on tuberculosis included mention of an upcoming study that will test drug candidates in the common marmoset, Callithrix jacchus. Why use marmosets, aside from the fact that they’re smaller than most other primates? Well, if you give drug A to one subject and drug B to another, differences between the subjects will generally complicate the interpretation of the data. However, 80% of all marmoset offspring are identical twins, so you can give drug A to one marmoset and drug B to its twin and know that any major observed differences are probably due to differences in the drugs.

2. Stephen Quake‘s talk was wide-ranging but included some discussion of the fact that human genome sequencing is becoming relatively fast and easy. Quake has a unique perspective on this because he had his own genome sequenced last year. The paper describing this feat had only three coauthors, Quake said, because it took only three people to do the work. However, annotating genomes — i.e., analyzing the sequences to find markers associated with disease and so forth — remains more laborious, he added. An “annotating the Quake genome” paper will be published in The Lancet next month . . . and it includes 30 coauthors.

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