[Red Herring] Gene Mania? Enough already!

From: Adam Rifkin (adam@knownow.com)
Date: Wed Feb 21 2001 - 20:36:48 PST

Score one for science...


> Gene mania? Enough already!
> By Stephan Herrera
> Red Herring, February 16, 2001
> No doubt about it, the mapping of the human genome was a signal
> accomplishment in the history of human ingenuity. Anybody who forgot
> that point was reminded with a cattle prod last Monday when the journals
> Nature and Science put peer-reviewed copies of this map on their Web
> sites. The media, the journals, and the rival mapping efforts of the
> Human Genome Project and Celera Genomics (NYSE: CRA) made sure of
> that. If you believe the leitmotiv, this newly published genome map will
> change everything -- particularly at certain biotech firms like Celera,
> Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI), Doubletwist, and Incyte Genomics
> (Nasdaq: INCY).
> Don't believe it. For starters, it's not all that different from the
> draft human genome map originally released with equally great fanfare
> last summer. Yes, this new annotated and peer-reviewed version did yield
> new talking points, but none were quite as tectonic as the headlines
> would have us believe.
> Take the supposition that, rather than 100,000 genes, humans might in
> fact have something closer to 30,000. Estimates in that ballpark were
> published and pronounced months ago by several different researchers
> around the world. There were no press conferences nor much hullabaloo at
> the time because the authors and certainly most in the drug-development
> sector of biotech understood that the insight that matters is not the
> definitive number of genes in the genome, but rather the function of
> the proteins.
> "We already have the majority of all the genes we need," says Genentech
> (NYSE: DNA) senior director of research Paul Godowski. "Anyway, all you
> really need is ten good ones," adds Immunex (Nasdaq: IMNX) CEO Edward
> Fritzky, whose company subscribes to all three of Celera's genomic products.
> Celera president J. Craig Venter certainly knew this long before he
> started this quest three years ago. The media buzz about how Celera
> somehow has a better seat at the protein party just because it has the
> coolest database in town is just wrong. Not even Mr. Venter would boast
> such a claim.
> Dr. George Poste, former chief of science at SmithKline Beecham and the
> man who engineered the watershed SKB-Human Genome Sciences deal in 1993,
> puts it this way: "Many recognized that proteomics would be crucial --
> regardless of how many genes there might be -- some time ago. Nobody was
> concerned about how many genes there were in toto because it didn't
> influence the way they did research or their interest in protein-protein
> interaction, which is the real key." Red Herring has already made this
> point as well.
> Likewise, the information disseminated as "news" on Monday about the
> prospect that as little as 1 percent of the genome is responsible for
> life as we know it, and that proteins, not genes at all, are the
> ultimate Rosetta Stone, is hardly new. And the implication by some that
> now, all of a sudden, the drug-discovery wilderness is smaller and
> therefore easier to comb, is equally misleading. "If it's true, it makes
> me very excited as a scientist," says Jonas Alsenas, a fund manager at
> ING Barings Furman Selz Asset Management. "Regardless, as an investor,
> they're at square one as far as I'm concerned."
> Finally, it was obvious well before Monday that Celera's data would be
> easier to use than that of the Human Genome Project, given that it was
> designed to woo high-end customers from the outset. It was equally well
> understood that the public database would be a bit clunky, owing to the
> fact that it was packaged to be something more akin to an encyclopedia
> that would be useful to the broadest possible audience.
> This is not to take anything away from the scientific significance of
> this glorious map, or the rival efforts that produced it. It is simply
> to tether the outsized hype that continues to undermine the credibility
> of biotechnology. Another reason to focus more on the scientific
> significance of Monday's publishing gala -- and not to get unduly worked
> up over the number of genes in our body colossus -- is the simple fact
> that crucial pieces of what was published on Monday could, in the end,
> be wrong. The gene-counting experts were wrong about the 100,000 number,
> so why should anybody put much credence in their latest prediction of 30,000?
> The folks at gene-hunting outfits like Incyte, Human Genome Sciences,
> and Doubletwist certainly aren't. Little wonder: Incyte hawks a database
> with 120,000 genes, Doubletwist's has upward of 105,000, and HGS sports
> a nice round 100,000. HGS, Incyte, and especially outfits like
> Doubletwist, which made a splash last year with claims that it had found
> tens of thousands of genes by simply mining publicly available gene
> databases, would seem to be in a fix if the lower gene-count number sticks.
> Beleaguered Celera investors take heart: with the publication of the
> human genome behind him, Mr. Venter can now train his undivided
> attention and considerable resourcefulness on proteomics and the genetic
> variations of disease known as single nucleotide polymorphisms
> (SNPs). Mr. Venter has said all along that these are his true
> passion. They certainly are of greater interest to "big pharma" and
> drug-discovery-based biotech, and these are the forces that create
> weather patterns in the $350 billion worldwide health care industry.
> Proteomic and SNP discoveries won't come as quickly as the genomic ones
> did for Mr. Venter, nor will media valentines. But they'll benefit
> investors more and get him closer to that Nobel prize faster than
> anything he accomplished last Monday. Judging by the relatively
> restrained rise in Celera's share price on Monday -- and the pullback
> that later in the week all but erased it -- investors sent a message not
> just to Craig Venter but also to the biotech industry and the media. And
> that message is, enough already with the hyperbole.



As of the weekend of Feb. 10, Napster had 51 million users, and an average of 1.5 million of them were online at any moment. They were downloading songs at the rate of 10,000 per second, totaling more than 250 million songs downloaded during this weekend alone!


Usage was particularly high Sunday, when more than 130 million files were downloaded.

According to an ongoing Webnoize study, nearly 3 billion MP3s were downloaded using Napster software in January -- a 91% increase from September. Napster's popularity has turned the MP3 format into the "de facto standard for digital music," according to Webnoize.


"Napster and Napster-like technology is a horse that is not only out of the barn, it's frolicking in the fields and reproducing," said Guy Kawasaki, chief executive of Garage.com, a venture capital investment bank. "There's no stopping it; there's only figuring out how to utilize its immense power."

-- http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-4794922.html

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 27 2001 - 23:18:11 PDT