Researchers at UC Berkeley recently developed a novel imaging technique that allowed them to observe cellular processes in Cyanobacteria, one of the most common forms of bacteria. This research was a collaborative project involving researchers from UC Berkeley and the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI).
Science Market Update
There are exciting things happening in the Berkeley life science research industry. Of particular interest is the developing partnership between UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. This partnership has the potential to foster more collaboration between institutions and allow for more joint research ventures in the East Bay Area.
2012 was a big year for the science of snipping DNA to introduce genetic changes into a cell, also known as genome editing. Though Science magazine hailed two new techniques for selectively cutting and pasting DNA in the field of genome engineering as together constituting one of the Top 10 scientific breakthroughs of the year, those methods may already have been surpassed by researchers at the University of California Berkeley using RNA and a single protein. Faster, simpler, and cheaper, the UCB team led by Dr. Jennifer Doudna published initial results of their work genetically modifying bacteria using the RNA-based DNA cleavage technique last summer. The response from the the life science community was extremely positive, with reviews calling it a "tour de force" and a "a real hit," according to the latest press release. Now three more papers are coming out based on the work of the Doudna Lab showing that the RNA programming technique using a bacterial enzyme known as Cas9 is equally effective in making alterations to human genes.
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It used to be, once upon a time, that the northwest corner of the UC Berkeley campus was a bit sleepy, bordering as it did an older downtown that hadn't yet been revitalized. The important buildings on campus were located more centrally, or along the busy southside, or up in the hills. In the year 2012 all that has changed, and not one but two important life science lab buildings have been completed and opened their doors in the past year along Oxford Street, built to mesh comfortably with the now-fashionable and vibrant Downtown Berkeley scene at their doorsteps and to contribute to a growing life science research hub in that campus corner.
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The smooth and efficient functioning of any system necessarily requires a mechanism for recognizing and removing components that have served their purpose and are no longer needed, in order to make way for ones that are. It's waste disposal, and at the cellular level it's the important activity of proteasomes that maintain cellular health by identifying and degrading proteins that have been targeted as obsolete or damaged. (To put this in perspective, consider that at any given moment a human cell typically contains about 100,000 different proteins.) This housekeeping function of proteasomes is critical to a broad range of vital biochemical processes, including transcription, DNA repair, and the immune defense system. Since the proteasome process was only first described in 2004 (by Nobel Prize-winning chemists), our understanding of its mechanics has been limited.
The 1000 Genomes Project is an international genomic research and data collection effort that has produced "a deep catalog of human genetic variation" for public research use. Now, thanks to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the White House's recently-announced Big Data Research and Development Initiative, the 1000 Genomes data is available gratis on the AWS cloud. In reality, there are over 1700 genome profiles in the demographically-diverse study, and all that data takes up about 200 terabytes of memory, according to a New York Times article on the cloud bonanza. So even though researchers could download the data free to their own computers from 1000 Genomes directly before, it's something you really don't want to do, even if you have that kind of memory (re: 200TB). Instead, you'll likely be better off accessing the data through AMS and paying them to crunch numbers for you, which probably explains why AWS has decided to engage in this bit of philanthropy. Future profit, plus their preeminence as a computational resource in the brave new world of Big Data.
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The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the largest, most successful established biotech hubs in the US, thanks in part to the presence of 3 of the world's top universities: UCSF, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. Strong on intellectual capital, the area has been notoriously short of real estate since developers were ordered to stop filling in the Bay back in the 60's. Fortunately, as manufacturing waned, industrial land became available for redevelopment as high-tech R&D lab space, which is how UCSF's Mission Bay campus eventually came to be. Across the Bay to the East, bayfront industrial property is seeing a similar repurposing, with particularly mushroom-like life science growth in the little city of Emeryville, though also in neighboring Berkeley and Richmond.
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When the University of California Berkeley (UCB) decided to actively recruit acclaimed neurologist Dr. Zhigang He away from his research position at Harvard Medical School's Children's Hospital, they knew a critical component of the package they could offer him would be a promise of substantial funding for his stem cell research on the human nervous system in his new lab. To secure this funding, UCB applied to and received a promise of $5.6M in research funding for He from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), a statewide initiative supported by taxpayer-approved bonds.
Most Americans who celebrate Christmas look forward to getting a bushy conifer for their living rooms in December. A fresh tree smells so good that we can almost believe we're in the woods. Candle companies sell vast quantities of scented pillars with names like "Siberian Fir" for those folks who just can't get enough of the pungent green aromatic. That being said, imagine getting an early gift of not one tree but 4,584 acres of prime California forestland? That's what happened last month when the UC Center for Forestry was notified that it would receive two huge parcels of former utility land on which to conduct research. To be clear: