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Endnotes for Chapter 2. “The Most Wondrous Map”

Page 35

‘Nearly two centuries ago, in this room, on this floor, Thomas Jefferson and a trusted aide spread out a magnificent map,’ said then US President Bill Clinton.

Remarks by the president, prime minister Tony Blair of England (via satellite), Dr. Francis Collins, director of the national human genome research institute, and Dr. Craig Venter, president and chief scientific officer, Celera Genomics corporation, on the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome project.

Page 36

Actually, Venter’s team did it better, faster and over ten times cheaper.

Juan Enriquez, “Private vs. Public Sequencing Effort,” in As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth(New York: Random House/Three Rivers Press, 1st pbk. ed.), p. 110.

Venter got fired and he ruefully remarked later, ‘My greatest success is that I managed to get hated by both worlds.’

James Shreeve, “Craig Venter’s Epic Voyage to Redefine the Origin of the Species,” Wired, Aug. 2004.

Page 36

…according to Wired magazine a man so smart that ‘even the experts don’t always get what he’s talking about.’

Thomas Goetz, “How the Personal Genome Project Could Unlock the Mysteries of Life,” Wired, Aug. 2008.

Page 37

…sufferers of Parkinson’s disease could be helped by taking Ecstasy

David Concar, “Ecstasy Has Dramatic Effect on Parkinson’s Symptoms,” New Scientist, Nov. 2002.

Page 38

Written out as A’s, T’s, C’s and G’s on paper, it’d take up roughly the equivalent of two hundred volumes the size of the 1,000-page Manhattan phone book, and take nine and half years to read out loud (assuming you read ten letters a second and never slept, ate or went to the toilet while you were doing it).

“Frequently Asked Questions,” Archon Genomics Xprize website, 12 Jan. 2010.

Page 40

Using this information, they can work out the origins of illegal ivory – and in 2009 were able to direct law enforcement to the borders of Tanzania and Mozambique as a result.

“Map of Elephant DNA Reveals Trail of Ivory Smugglers,” South African Mail & Guardian, 28 June 2009.

Page 41

By comparing the two, they found that cells with the cancer had 22,190 DNA mutations (for example, a letter duplicated, deleted or replaced by the wrong one).

E. D. Pleasance et al., “A Small-cell Lung Cancer Genome with Complex Signatures of Tobacco Exposure” Nature 463(14 Jan. 2010):184-90. ; and also E. D. Pleasance, R. K. Cheetham et al., “A Comprehensive Catalogue of Somatic Mutations from a Human Cancer Genome,” Nature 463(16 Dec. 2009):191–96. Summary information: “Lung Cancer and Melanoma Laid Bare,” Wellcome Trust/Sanger Institute press release, 16 Dec. 2009.

Webb Miller and Stephan Schuster of Penn State University are using a similar approach to protect the Tasmanian devil from a mysterious and contagious tumour that is endangering the species.

B. J. Morrison McKay and Clare Sansom, “Webb Miller and Trey Ideker to Receive Top International Bioinformatics Awards for 2009 from the International Society for Computational Biology,” PLoS Computational Biology, 24 April 2009.

Page 42

I don’t know all this because a) I am inordinately nosey; b) George is a vocal hypochondriac; or c) we had the world’s most boring conversation ever, but because Church has happily published this data, along with his genome, online for the world to see as ‘Participant #1’ in what he describes as ‘possibly the broadest, most invasive study ever in genetics’

George Church, “Participant #1,” Personal Genome Project.

Ninety per cent of lung cancers, for instance, are linked to smoking.

World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans: Tobacco Smoke and Involuntary Smoking (Lyon, France: IARCPress, vol. 83, 2004).

Page 47

‘you can’t uncouple nature from nurture anymore than you can uncouple a rectangle’s length from its breadth’

Natalie Angier, The Canon: The Beautiful Basics of Science(London, UK: Faber and Faber, 2008, pbk. ed.), “Ch. 7: Molecular Biology: Cells and Whistles,” p. 211.

Craig Venter told Der Speigel magazine that so far the Human Genome Project has produced ‘close to zero’ medical benefits and that ‘we have, in truth, learned nothing from the genome other than probabilities.’

“We Have Learned Nothing from the Genome,” Der Spiegel, 29 July 2010.,1518,709174,00.html

Page 49

The economic impact of this is that the expense of researching and seeking approval for drugs that never see the light of day has to be covered in the prices of those that do reach the market. This means the price tag to a drug company for each successful drug easily approaches a billion dollars (and can sometimes be twice that), which is one reason why drugs can be expensive.

Christopher P. Adams and Van V. Brantner “Estimating the Cost of New Drug Development: Is It Really $802 Million?” Health Affairs 25(2):420-28.

Page 51

In 2009, California-based Complete Genomics announced that it could sequence a complete human genome for just five thousand dollars and thinks it’s on track to do it for a thousand

Emily Singer, “Complete Genomics Releases $5000 Genome Data,” Technology Review blog, 6 Feb. 2009.

Already there’s talk of the hundred-dollar genome

Emily Singer, “The $100 Genome,” Technology Review, 17 April 2008.

Oh wait, David Weitz of Harvard reckons he can do it for $30.

Emily Singer, “The $30 Genome?” Technology Review, 7 June 2010.

‘Imagine the day when you and your doctor sit down to review a copy of your own personal genome,’ says the blurb for the X Prize. ‘This vital information about your biology will enable your physician to inform you of your disease susceptibilities, the best ways to keep yourself healthy and how to avoid or lessen the impact of future illness.’

“The Promise of Personalized Medicine,” Archon X Prize for Genomics website.

Appendix to chapter 2: Damned Clever, Those Russians

Page 53

Work by Yousin Suh and colleagues “demonstrated that centenarians and their offspring maintain longer telomeres” compared with those of us who are shorter lived.

Gil Atzmon et al., “Genetic Variation in Human Telomerase Is Associated with Telomere Length in Ashkenazi Centenarians,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 13 Nov. 2009.

People who maintain longer telomeres are “spared age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which cause most deaths among elderly people.”

Robert Roy Britt, “One Key Found for Living to 100,” Live Science website, 12 Nov. 2009.

…in May 2010 scientists working for the Biotime corporation reported that “by selecting for cells with sufficient levels of the immortalizing protein telomerase,” they were able to “reset the clock of aging back to the embryonic state” and show that “time’s arrow of development, as well as aging, could be reversed.”

Overview of BioTime’s Reversal of the Aging of Human Cells,” Biotime Inc. website. Full paper: H vaziri et al, “Spontaneous reversal of the developmental aging of normal human cells following transcriptional reprogramming,” Regenerative Medicine, May 2010, Volume 5.

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