Saturday, August 16, 2008

Know Your Genome

Apparently the only company that will sequence your entire genome is located in Cambridge.

The cost? $350,000. (That's $150,000 more that it costs for Virgin Galactic to fly you into space.)

The company, Knome, was the focus of my Boston Globe column earlier this week. Is there any benefit, in mid-2008, to having your DNA decoded?

From the piece:

    These are the rip-roaring Wild West days for companies peddling genomic information to consumers, offering insights about the twisted nucleic acids that make us who we are - and also those trying to bring down the cost of sequencing an entire genome.

    Some believe the large-scale gathering of genetic information will remake the way healthcare is practiced and shift its focus from treating disease and chronic conditions to staving them off. Others, such as genetics researcher David Altshuler of the Broad Institute, liken it, at least in the near-term, to the recent rage in whole-body CT scanning for healthy people. Genomic analysis may identify potential problems that don't ever become real maladies, but generate all sorts of unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures.

Here's the video -- a chat with Knome CEO Jorge Conde.

Wired has a wonderful profile of Knome founder George Church (written by Thomas Goetz) that begins...

    George Church is dyslexic, narcoleptic, and a vegan. He is married with one daughter, weighs about 210 pounds, and has worn a pioneer-style bushy beard for decades. He has elevated levels of creatine kinase in his blood, the consequence of a heart attack. He enjoys waterskiing, photography, rock climbing, and singing in his church choir. His mother's maiden name is Strong. He was born on August 28, 1954.

    If this all seems like too much information, well, blame Church himself.

Side note: Conde pronounces the name of the company, Knome, like it rhymes with "gnome." Church pronounces it "know-me." Conde says with a smile that Church must be more influential, since he hears far more people pronouncing it the Church way.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Back in 02140

I moved back last weekend from San Francisco to Cambridge after a two-year sojourn. (I still expect to be making about a half-dozen trips a year to California, and blogging about the convergence of technology and the entertainment industry at CinemaTech.)

But I'm switching gears at the Globe once again, starting a new column this Sunday called "Innovation Economy," which will focus on start-ups, venture capitalists, research labs, inventors, and big companies here in New England.

It's a patch of ground that I haven't been roaming much since my @large column ended in November 2005...but one that I've really loved exploring in the past. Some ancient history:

    From 1995 to 1997, I was part of the founding team of At, we also worked with the first generation of Internet companies in Boston (a few I remember were net.Genesis, Net Daemons Associates, Firefly Networks, and VirtuFlex.) Occasionally, I contributed to a Globe column called Boston.comment that ran Thursdays on what was then called the "Plugged In" page. (Frank Hertz and Chuck Chow were my co-conspirators who, luckily, knew how to write.)

    In 1997, I started covering New England-related stories for Wired Magazine and Wired News. (Here's one of my first pieces for Wired, about Forrester Research, and a piece of similar vintage from Wired News, about Cambridge's annual IgNobel Prize ceremony.)

    In 1998 and 1999, I started a monthly column called "Tech Talk" for Boston Magazine and wrote a series of features for the monthly about local Internet celebs like CMGI chairman David Wetherell. (That job was where I met my wife, Amy -- who just this week began working at Boston Magazine once again.)

    From 2000 to 2005, I wrote the weekly @large column on Mondays, which covered tech, biotech, medical devices, and venture capital throughout New England. We also ran a series of panel discussions at the Globe's auditorium called ".COMversations," which were excerpted in the Globe. (Here are the first and last columns in that string.)

My goals for the Innovation Economy column are to tell the most interesting and important stories about what's new in New England -- and to provide some added context here.

I'm eager to hear about the stories *you* think ought to be told. (My e-mail is scott - at - My bias, as always, is toward stories that haven't already been told elsewhere.

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