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Rest in Peace David Schwartz

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 04-03-2012

Bio-Rad‘s dear Co-founder and chairman of the board, David Schwartz, passed away on April 1. He was 88.

Mr. Schwartz served as Bio-Rad President, Chief Executive Officer, and as Chairman of the Board from the company’s incorporation in 1957 until 2003, when his son, Norman Schwartz, assumed the role of President and Chief Executive Officer. He remained Chairman of the Board until he died.

Along with his wife, Alice Schwartz, Mr. Schwartz founded Bio-Rad in 1952 in Berkeley, California, shortly after they had both graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. The company was initially engaged in the development and production of specialty chemicals used in biochemical, pharmaceutical, and other life science research applications. Bio-Rad entered the field of clinical diagnostics in the 1960s with the development of its first test kit for thyroid function that was based on separation techniques and materials developed for life science research.

In the years that followed under the leadership of Mr. Schwartz, Bio-Rad continued to broaden its product lines and expand its geographical markets. Today, the company is renowned worldwide and a leader in life science research and clinical diagnostics.

Rest in Peace. We will sure miss you.

New Layer of Genetic Information Discovered

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 03-28-2012

A hidden and never before recognized layer of information in the genetic code has been uncovered by a team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) thanks to a technique developed at UCSF called ribosome profiling, which enables the measurement of gene activity inside living cells — including the speed with which proteins are made.

By measuring the rate of protein production in bacteria, the team discovered that slight genetic alterations could have a dramatic effect. This was true even for seemingly insignificant genetic changes known as “silent mutations,” which swap out a single DNA letter without changing the ultimate gene product. To their surprise, the scientists found these changes can slow the protein production process to one-tenth of its normal speed or less.

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Grass to gas: genome map speeds biofuel development

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-14-2012

Researchers at the University of Georgia have taken a major step in the ongoing effort to find sources of cleaner, renewable energy by mapping the genomes of two originator cells of Miscanthus x giganteus, a large perennial grass with promise as a source of ethanol and bioenergy.

Changsoo Kim, a postdoctoral research associate in the UGA Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory, identified a set of approximately 600 bits of Miscanthus DNA that can serve as diagnostic tools. The next step is to determine which pieces of DNA are diagnostic of genes that can make the plant an even better biofuel crop.

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A blasting good way to understand the complex and beautiful world of cell biology

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-06-2012

The winner of the 2011 National Science Foundation’s International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge have been announced and not surprisingly, one of our favorite contenders, FoldIt! has taken top prize. Since we have written about FoldIt! in the past (see Guilt-Free Computer Gaming for Protein Scientists) we won’t belabor the point any more. However, we will bring to your attention one of the runners up, Meta!Blast which is a serious game that explores the complexities of cellular and metabolic biology.

According to the website, Meta!blast, developed at Iowa State University, is a real-time 3D action-adventure video game, aimed at high school and undergraduate student audiences, meant to provide an entertaining, engaging experience while simultaneously educating players about cell biology. Players discover that their entire lab has been sucked up by a plant cell and it is their job to rescue the group while dodging the hazards associated with the internal cell environment. By immersing players into a virtual cell environment and allowing them to interact with it on their own terms, the developers hope that players will come to a greater understanding of the cell than they could learn from traditional diagrams and textbooks.

The game is available in both windows and mac version and can be downloaded at http://www.metablast.org/downloads

How bureaucracy is killing innovative medical research

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-12-2011

The promise of stem cell research for drug discovery and cell-based therapies depends on the ability of scientists to acquire stem cell lines for their research.

A survey of more than 200 human embryonic stem cell researchers in the United States found that nearly four in ten researchers have faced excessive delay in acquiring a human embryonic stem cell line and that more than one-quarter were unable to acquire a line they wanted to study.

“The survey results provide empirical data to support previously anecdotal concerns that delays in acquiring or an inability to acquire certain human embryonic stem cell lines may be hindering stem cell science in the United States,” said Aaron Levine, an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Results of the survey were published in the December issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology. Funding for the study was provided by the Kauffman Foundation’s Roadmap for an Entrepreneurial Economy Program.
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