Epistasis Blog

From the Computational Genetics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania (www.epistasis.org)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Genetics Company Fails, Its Research Too Complex

According the NY Times, deCODE Genetics filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday. This in my mind is the last nail in the genome-wide association study (GWAS) coffin. deCODE and the many other people pushing technological solutions to complex problems in human genetics have failed because they assumed there was a simple relationship between genotype and phenotype. The optimism expressed by Altschuler at the end of this news article is the last gasp from those going down with the sinking ship.

Does this mean we will return to thinking about the problem and coming up with intelligent solutions? Unfortunately not. Altschuler and his many colleagues that influence research funding and publication are now pushing whole-genome sequencing and rare variants as the next solution. I predict this will be no more successful for diseases such as hypertension and bipolar depression than GWAS was. We need to be very careful as we go down this road. The public and congress may not be able to stomach another grand failure to live up to the hype. One might predict that funding for genetics will dry up once deep sequencing fails to reveal the missing heritability. Articles such as the one that appeared recently in The Economist hint that we might be in trouble. It might be a good time to think about retooling as a physiologist.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Program in Resource Bioinformatics

I have been awarded a subcontract to work with Harvard University, Jackson State University, Montana State University, Morehouse College, Oregon Heath Sciences University, the University of Alaska, University of Hawaii, and the University of Puerto Rico to develop the national infrastructure for sharing biomedical research resources. Locally, we are establishing a Program in Resource Bioinformatics at Dartmouth College to identify and make available information about cell lines, mouse models, software, reagents, etc. that can be shared with the rest of the country. This new program is funded by an NIH/NCRR ARRA U24 grant. The official NCRR press release can be found here. The Dartmouth College press release can be found here. The Dartmouth newspaper article ont he project can be found here. A brief description of our project can be found here.