One day, genomic data will be translated into language that can be used to find new diagnostic and therapeutic targets for disease. Computers will mine DNA codes to build nanomachines, and "smart fabrics" will contain sensing capabilities modeled on living things. So says Shankar Shastry, chairman of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California at Berkeley. "Bio is my bet on where the new set of glamour technologies will be," he predicts. But even the small steps that begin such giant leaps are hugely difficult to take. Witness the Alpha Project.

Courtesy of The Molecular Science Institute
 Roger Brent

It's the brainchild of Roger Brent, president and research director of the Molecular Sciences Institute (MSI) in Berkeley, which was founded seven years ago by 2002 Nobelist Sydney Brenner as an independent, nonprofit research organization. Brent, a widely published former genetics professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard...

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