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

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9780071369800: Transducing the Genome: Information, Anarchy, and Revolution in the Biomedical Sciences

This text provides a behind-the-scenes look at the sequencing of the human genome project and the birth of the science of genomics. It explains genomics as an information science and traces its history back further than standard histories and news accounts to the early visionaries who saw the gene as as information carrier. It covers the early protein work of leigh Anderson and John taylor to the entreprenerial ideas of protein chemist Randall Scott and his vision of mining the database of gene sequences for pharmaceutical riches. The book also looks at the developments that have come out of the human genome project and the birth of genomics, and how they will be influencing the world of science for years to come.

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Review:

What has made the Human Genome Project so deeply appealing? In one sense, it's just another large-scale, big-budget effort to keep a gang of nerds busy and out of trouble for a few years. Geneticist Gary Zweiger looks askance at this and explains how the confluence of information systems, big science, and business exemplified by the HGP is actually accelerating the pace of beneficial change for all people. Transducing the Genome: Information, Anarchy, and Revolution in the Biomedical Sciences draws deeply on Zweiger's experience in biological science and biotech commerce to illuminate the scientific, economic, and legal issues relevant to the search for a more complete understanding of human genetics. Brimming with pro-capitalist optimism, he believes that the information revolution spawned the biotech explosion and will soon lead to better, cheaper solutions to a very broad range of health problems:

Knowledge of our internal information network will come mostly from an explosion of new genomic database analyses. A growing army of mathematicians and information scientists will develop increasingly powerful and more useful algorithms and computational processes for finding biomedical knowledge in these databases. A growing regiment of biologists and medical professionals with training in mathematics and information sciences will lead these knowledge discovery missions.

Zweiger assuages the reader's fears of gene patents with a brief foray into intellectual property law. It does seem unlikely that biotech patents will pose any more problems than standard pharmaceutical company practice. Combining scientific, legal, and business expertise, Transducing the Genome provides the most comprehensive overview of the birth of biotech yet written. --Rob Lightner

From the Back Cover:

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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