Ben A. Hitt is living proof that you can leave biomedical research without saying goodbye forever. More than 20 years since turning out the lights in the lab for what he thought was the last time, Hitt is not only back, he's in demand. Now chief scientist for Correlogic Systems, in Bethesda, Md., his phone hasn't stopped ringing since Feb. 16, when a paper in The Lancet1 announced that Proteome Quest, the pattern-recognition software he created, had identified a pattern among five serum proteins that diagnoses ovarian cancer with unheard-of accuracy. It is a computing feat of outstanding significance and signals that the search for biomarkers for disease stands at the threshold of new possibilities, ready to step beyond single-protein biomarkers to those based on multiple proteins, what might be called proteomic fingerprints.

To see the potential of proteomic fingerprints, consider the limitations of the best-known biomarker for ovarian...

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