TIME WELL SPENT

David Adler dadler at milton.u.washington.edu
Tue Oct 30 12:42:49 EST 1990


Dan Jacobson writes:
        My adviser recently questioned the value of my being invoved in such
        things as the BIONET.  Somewhat stunned I stammered something about
        the value of being in contact with hundreds (thousands?) of other
        bio-scientists and the help therefore available. ...

I was just about to write a thank you to bionet.molbio.methds-reagnts
readers/participants when I read this message, so I will role my 
thank you and comments into one.

About a week and half ago I ran out of the restriction enzyme, MaeII, that
I needed to complete an important series of experiments.  The enzyme is very
expensive and only available from Boehringer.  Being conservative I had only
ordered what I thought would be enough and thus got caught short by 100 or so
units.  The day after I ordered it I was told that this enzyme was now on
indefinite backorder.  I called everyone I knew at BM but was told there was
none available.  A bit frantic, and I must say skeptical, I posted a message to
bionet.molbio.methds-reagnts relaying my desperate need and asking for 
assistance.  Within 8 hours I received two replies, the first was a phone
call from someone at the Univ. of Chicago who thought they had some in their
freezer, but turned out not the case. The second was e-mail from Nigel Brown,
at the Univ. of Birmingham, U.K., who did not have any but gave me the name
and phone number of the person in Germany who originally determined the
enzyme's specificity.  In addition Nigel educated me on the concept of
exclusive production licenses.  I then called Rudi Schmitt, Nigel's lead,
at the Univ of Regensberg and asked about the MaeII supply situation.  He
explained that now he also gets his supply from Boehringer and that the
enzyme is very dificult to purify thus the high price and possible
production problems.  He said that he would call the BM labs in Penzberg
and see if he could russle up some enzyme.  Two days later I received a FAX
from B. Frey of BM-Penzberg that they have a small amount in the freezer and
would supply me with what I needed to complete my current experiments. The
enzyme is now being shipped.

I wanted to thank, Nigel Smith,  Rudi Shmitt, and B. Frey at BM-Penzberg and
most important the network without which I either would never have gotten the
enzyme or spent a lot more time and money tracking it down. This single network
success easily has justified the time I spend on the network not to mention all
the various pertinent information exchange that goes on daily.

I also believe that this computer network is still in its infancy and it is only
through broadening participation that it will fulfill the potential of rapid and
efficient exchange of scientific information. Prejudice and fear is often the result
of ignorance and so education is likely what is needed to respond to Dan's situation.
As an aside it is most curious that this situation is at Johns Hopkins, home of major
genetic databases, Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man and the new Genome Data Base.
Maybe Dan's mentor needs to have a conversation with Victor McKusick, he may be
just down the hall.



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