September 2001

Technology Profile

Courts Cast Clouds Over PCR Pricing
Courts Cast Clouds Over PCR Pricing
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR)--a technique invented by Kary Mullis in 1983, published in 1986,1 and the subject of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1993--can well be described as one of the most important technical advances of modern molecular biology. How much researchers have to pay to use the technology, however, is now largely in the hands of US and European courts that are deciding who controls patents on a critical enzyme that, in simplistic terms, amounts to the P in PCR. Basel, Swi
Suppliers of Taq DNA Polymerases
Suppliers of Taq DNA Polymerases
The Scientist 15[17]:1, Sep. 3, 2001 PROFILE Suppliers of Taq DNA Polymerases  E-mailarticle Company Catalog #   Form(1) Size (units) (2) Price (3) Licensed for PCR ABgene (888) 870-8268 (716) 241-2870 www.abgene.com AB-0192 Taq DNA Polymerase R 250 65.00 Yes AB-0192/b   2500 625.00   AB-0908 ThermoStart DNA Polymerase R 250 65.00 Yes AB-0908/b   2500 625.00   AB-
A Look at Drosophila Pattern Formation
A Look at Drosophila Pattern Formation
Researchers interested in gene expression studies adopt one of two approaches. They can either examine the expression of a given gene in a population of cells in aggregate, or they can study the gene on a cell-by-cell basis in situ. The advantage of the former approach is its simplicity: It is generally easy to prepare RNA or protein from a given tissue sample and to probe it for the gene or protein of interest. But there are several disadvantages associated with the population approach. First o
Going Super-Duper Throughput
Going Super-Duper Throughput
R2-D2 and C3PO would probably have enjoyed the scene. After all, the exhibit hall at the World Trade Center in Boston buzzed with robots, gadgets, widgets, and, of course, humans--lots of humans. More than 4,000 attendees and 300 exhibitors met Aug. 12-17 at the sixth annual Drug Discovery Technology (DDT) conference. Automated multichannel liquid dispensers, robotic arms, cell sorters, and computers whirred and hummed, while scientists poked and played, queried, and chatted. All this high-tech

Profession

Ardent Scientist, Savvy Advocate
Ardent Scientist, Savvy Advocate
On most days, Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, coordinates with genome centers around the world and evaluates ethical, legal, and social implications of the project that made him famous. But Collins reserves this day in late July for the passion that brought him to the institute in the first place: research to identify which of the human body's 35,000 genes causes Type 2 diabetes. Assembled around a table in the vaccine center of the National Institut
Protecting Prized Personnel from Predators
Protecting Prized Personnel from Predators
Laboratory managers who ban calls from executive search firms make it easier for recruiters to lure top talent, according to Al DiPalo vice president of Searchforce Inc., a Clearwater, Fla.-based executive recruiting firm that specializes in life scientists. "I love companies that tell people if they're talking to a recruiter, they'll lose their jobs on the spot," he exclaims. "All I have to say is, 'Do you really want to work for a company that is so afraid of you looking for a better opportuni
Specialization Inundation
Specialization Inundation
Needed: Molecular biologist. Requirements: CHO cell biologist with bioreactor experience of greater than 200 liters. Recruiters provide an antidote to life scientists who barrage biotechnology companies with resumes for every job posting: Niche hiring. By helping companies filter for a particular forte, recruiters quickly identify exactly what their clients want, such as a CHO cell biologist with bioreactor experience of greater than 200 liters. For a position like this, most scientists with o
Profession Notes
Profession Notes
Brian Boom, formerly vice president for botanical science and Pfizer curator of botany at the New York Botanical Society, now presides over the All Species Foundation (ASF) as its founding CEO. ASF (www.all-species.org), based in San Francisco, is spearheading an initiative to catalog all species on Earth in the next 25 years (R. Lewis, "Inventory of life," The Scientist, 15[15]:1, July 23, 2001). Boom, appointed to the post in August, says the position is a dream job for him and he looks to use
Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Click to view our current database of Funding Opportunites in the Life Sciences.

News

Stepping Up for Stem Cells
Stepping Up for Stem Cells
Within months, scientists will be able to compete for about $100 million in federal grants for research involving human embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Following President George W. Bush's decision last month to provide limited federal funding for human ES cell research, based on existing stem cell lines only, officials at the National Institutes of Health are rushing to finalize grant procedures, which will include a public registry database of 60-70 government-certified lines and their suppliers.
Lotteries and Tobacco Money: Basic Research Bonanza?
Lotteries and Tobacco Money: Basic Research Bonanza?
Boosted by revenue from lotteries and tobacco company settlements, state-financed basic research in the life sciences is soaring. The goal of such funding is usually to create wealth by attracting federal and private money. But this strategy raises difficult questions about how best to measure research outcomes, policy specialists say. At least 17 states have directed tobacco settlement money into research and all but three of them are focusing on fundamental studies rather than direct commerc
Where the Bugs Are: Forensic Entomology
Where the Bugs Are: Forensic Entomology
To watch the X-Files' Dana Scully probe corpses, you'd think that every physician and scientist is expert in reading clues in maggot patterns. Not so. The American Board of Forensic Entomology (ABFE) lists just eight members; a total of 63 professionals practice this science worldwide. Forensic entomology is the study of arthropods, used to solve matters of legal interest, most often of a criminal nature. "It's mostly a repeated tale of human tragedy combined with some remarkable insect ecology,
Reforming Criminal Law, Exposing Junk Forensic Science
Reforming Criminal Law, Exposing Junk Forensic Science
This is wisdom, listen up. Don't raid the fridge when you break into somebody's home. The cops will find your DNA on unfinished food and then CODIS will find you. Next thing you know, you're rotting in prison, just like the "honey bun bandit." You'll never hear fatherly advice like this from Paul Ferrara--too bad for B&E men (that's breaking and entering, to you). The conviction carried by his warm baritone and clear and sober eyes might make a young punk listen. But instead, the director o
News Notes
News Notes
For the first time, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have shown that human embryonic stem cell transplants have enabled mice with paralyzed hind limbs to get up and walk, offering hope that stem cell therapy could be a panacea for victims of lower motor diseases such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease) and spinal motor atrophy. John Gearhart, professor and director of the division of pediatric urology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, explained the resea

Commentary

Theological Support of Stem Cell Research
Theological Support of Stem Cell Research
Pope John Paul II has stated that support of embryonic stem cell research evidences moral corruption. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research have cast the debate surrounding this research as nothing but the next chapter in the abortion controversy. The ethical issues involved with this research, however, are far too complex to be reduced to such a simple assessment. Portraying the stem cell debate as the abortion controversy is at best intellectually misleading, at worst ethically negligent.
Stem Cells and Cloning in the Public Eye
Stem Cells and Cloning in the Public Eye
From golden rice to global warming, science makes headlines these days like never before. Not since Dolly the sheep made her debut five years ago did a scientific issue command as much attention as did cloning and stem cells during the week of Aug. 6. As soon as the White House announced on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 9, that President George W. Bush would make a nationally televised speech that evening regarding federal funding of stem cell research, newspapers, TV, and the Internet courted the s

Research

Insulin Receptor Takes Center Stage
Insulin Receptor Takes Center Stage
The defining characteristic of diabetes is its failure to properly maintain blood glucose levels. Normally, the elevated glucose concentration that occurs after eating induces the release of the hormone insulin from pancreatic beta cells. Cells expressing the insulin receptor can bind insulin and respond to the signal, thereby maintaining glucose homeostasis through changes in gene expression patterns and cellular metabolism. Insulin-induced effects include enhanced glucose uptake and glycogen s
How Cells Find Their Way
How Cells Find Their Way
Organisms need to sense their environment. By sensing, they can develop, heal wounds, protect against invaders, and create blood vessels. Chemotaxis, or directional sensing, allows cells to detect chemicals with exquisite sensitivity. Some chemotactic cells can sense chemical gradients that differ by only a few percent from a cell's front to its back. Although discovery of the molecule types involved in chemotaxis, as with other kinds of cell signaling events, has mounted, the details of how thi
Research Notes
Research Notes
It may not have eyes, but the saltwater Natronobacterium pharaonis has a primitive form of vision that uses blue-light-absorbing sensory rhodopsin II proteins (SRII) embedded in its membrane bilayer. When activated, SRII sends signals that are "translated into flagellar motion," says Harmut "Hudel" Luecke, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, University of California, Irvine. SRII's signaling enables bacteria to swim away from harsh sunlit areas where blue light would otherwise cause

Hot Paper

The Role of RING Fingers in Ubiquitination
The Role of RING Fingers in Ubiquitination
For this article, Jennifer Fisher Wilson interviewed Allan M. Weissman, a physician-scientist at the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Md.; Tony Hunter, professor of molecular and cell biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.; and Claudio A. P. Joaziero, investigator at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) in San Diego, Calif. Data from the Web of Science (ISI, Philadelphia) show that Hot Papers are cit

Technology

Cell Enrichment
Cell Enrichment
Isolating populations of cells can be a tedious job. But St. Paul, Minn.-based BioErgonomics Inc. (BioE) has put an end to the hard work of cell separation with its PrepaCyte™ reagent--a two-step media that agglutinates unwanted cells via surface antigen recognition. Traditional methods of cell separation rely on differences in the cells' density, size, or affinity for antibody-coated beads, as the cells are passed over a density gradient or through columns that selectively retain populati
Mass Phenotyping
Mass Phenotyping
Gels allow researchers to analyze proteins and gene chips let them analyze gene expression. What more could they possibly need? How about a tool to examine what's happening on the cellular level? A new technology called Phenotype MicroArrays™ (PM) offers just that. Unlike gels and gene chips, PM technology, developed by Hayward, Calif.-based Biolog Inc., enables scientists to identify changes in cellular phenotype. "The data we get is higher-level with PM technology because we know that th
Come in from the Cold
Come in from the Cold
For high-throughput screening and crystallography studies, it is often necessary to express large quantities of protein--a process that is complicated if the protein is toxic to the cells in which it is expressed. To combat this difficulty, transcription of the gene of interest is repressed while the cells are grown to a high density and then induced by the addition of reagents such as IPTG or tetracycline. Although chemical induction has been successfully used to regulate protein expression for

Opinion

Financial Gain: Just One of Many Motives
Financial Gain: Just One of Many Motives
It's hard to concoct a research scenario in which the investigator does not desire one result over another. Perhaps a bit of government-supported contract research falls into this category--the engineer paid by the Air Force, let's say, to measure the tensile strength of several compounds or the biochemist paid by the Food and Drug Administration to assess the bioactivity of two generic agents. But most investigators do care about the results; that's why they do the research in the first place