NAS Report Calls for Creation of a Biomedical Research and Patient Data Network

WASHINGTON — A new data network that integrates emerging research on the molecular makeup of diseases with clinical data on individual patients could drive the development of a more accurate classification of disease and ultimately enhance diagnosis and treatment, says a new report from the National Research Council.  The “new taxonomy” that emerges would define diseases by their underlying molecular causes and other factors in addition to their traditional physical signs and symptoms.  The report adds that the new data network could also improve biomedical research by enabling scientists to access patients’ information during treatment while still protecting their rights.  This would allow the marriage of molecular research and clinical data at the point of care, as opposed to research information continuing to reside primarily in academia.

Looking into the Future: The Dawn of Regenerative Medicine

George Church is thinking a lot about using regeneration as the key to treatments and keeping people healthy.  Induced pluripotent stem cells “is where I’m putting almost all of my chips these days, because it combines many of my interests — genomics, sequencing, epigenetics, synthetic biology, stem cells,” Church adds. While much of the work so far has been done in rodents, he says that it’ll be years, not decades, until it is tested in people. “The only way people are going to get this is through some brave soul,” Church says. “It will start with a sick person, and they will end up getting well, possibly more well than before they got sick.”   Read more in MIT’S Technology Review‘s Experimental Man.

Hamburg, Collins Chart Course to Personalized Medicine in NEJM

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins presented their vision for the future of personalized medicine in a perspectives article appearing online in the New England Journal of Medicine yesterday.

In it they explained that while researchers are inching closer to personalized medicine — identifying genetic variants involved in diagnosing disease and predicting treatment response — there are still a range of significant scientific and policy issues that need to be dealt with before personalized medicine reaches its full potential.

Protein Encyclopedia Announced by Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics

Several online resources, including ScienceDaily and EurekAlert! describe the creation of a protein encyclopedia which was announced during the 10th Anniversay Conference of the Swiss Insitute of Bioinofrmatics (SIB) in Berne, Switzerland held September 24th, 2008.  Professor Amos Bairoch, head of the SIB Swiss-Prot group described how the human genome sequencing project had created a dictionary allows a view at life as it is organized at the molecular level, noting that increasing knowledge or proteins is crucial to combating many disease states. 

The new protein encyclopedia, UniProt (Universal Protein Resource) is described as a comprehensive resource for protein sequence and annotation data.  UniProt data cover 20,325 human proteins culled from more than 45,000 scientific papers.  The information found in UniProt will provide opportunities to move closer to developing personalized medicine options for individual patients based on an understanding of their protein set.  The corpus of information will enable researchers to model the interaction between individual patients, diseases, and drugs.

Proteins from other animals will be added to the database.  The database is available for free to users.  Interestingly, in printed form, the resource would consist of 57 volumes of about 1,000 pages each.  The database can be accessed directly from the Rockefeller University Library Website.

Further details about the database are available from Janice Blondeau ( and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics or by contacting the Rockefeller University Library staff.