In defense of the Genome Boondoggle

Deaddog Ellington at Frodo.MGH.Harvard.EDU
Tue Feb 12 22:36:46 EST 1991


In article <2050 at fcs280s.ncifcrf.gov> toms at fcs260c2.ncifcrf.gov (Tom 
Schneider) defends the faith:

> learning how to identify genes from raw
> sequences alone.  Predictions can be tested - which leads to rapid 
> discovery of new genes.

As does PCR amplification or hybridization:  the analogue versions of your
digital statistical analyses.  The question is not whether some genes will
be identified, the question is (a) how many could already be identified 
without the sequence of the genome, and (b) whether the (IMO paltry)
number that remain be worth the enormous cost?

Statisticians drool at the mounds of data to be created.  Researchers
who go begging want to shoot the statisticians.  Rather than pistols
at ten paces, how about each side trying to justify expenditures for
the same set of money?  

>  avoid the terrible biases that we
> currently have in the GenBank database.

I'm sorry, but this does not seem like a terribly important
problem.  GenBank is skewed.  Big deal.  It gets the job done.
We find genes, we miss some stuff.  Science slops along and
we still find those self-splicing introns and centromeres and
other cool things.  Without the sequence of the human genome.
And with many people happily employed (for now) producing 
gobs of worthwhile data. 

I mean, what's a good example of what we have missed?  We know 
the Shine/Dalgarno sequences.  We have learned far more from 
mutation than we would by sequencing a bacterial genome (note:  
sequencing the Coli genome is indeed a cool thing to do). 

And will the "insides of introns" generate data for 2 PNAS papers and 
a TIBS review, or will it actually be worth the billions of 
dollars it will take to properly correct this horrific accounting
error?

> I think that that alone justifies the project.

Please, go speak to any faculty of any public university.  Wear body
armor.

> The second major justification is the enormous boost to sequencing 
> technology that the project is making.

Good sequencing technology stands on its own.  It does not need the Genome
Boondoggle to help it along.  

> We are eventually going to be able to sequence
> everybody's DNA in a few minutes.

Matrix-teers:  Is this nuts or what?  I've never seen this before, but
if it is even remotely true, I'll eat the small plastic rats that reside 
on the top of my terminal.

> There is also the spirit of adventure.

There is also the whiff of despair pouring out of research labs across
the U.S.  Alleviate that stench, then sequence your genome.

Non-woof 

 



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