We are entering the era of systems biology, where to truly understand a disease we must understand its causes from the molecular level to the organism level. The sheer number of biological molecules, and the complex nature of their interactions, has engendered a new method of biological experimentation, termed by Leroy Hood as "discovery science."

Discovery science is technology-driven, and contrasted with hypothesis-driven science because it relies on making large-scale observations that are not necessarily directly testing a specific hypothesis. These observations can then generate hypotheses to be tested, or even confirm existing hypotheses. The most conspicuous recent example of discovery science is the sequencing of the human genome.

Use of the definite article in "the human genome" refers to a kind of Platonic ideal--in actuality, there are as many human genomes as there are humans, identical twins notwithstanding. This represents one of the next frontiers for discovery science. Already,...

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