Open Questions: General Biotechnology

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See also: Molecular biology and genetics -- The immune system -- Cancer -- Protein chemistry and biology -- RNA biology - Drug delivery - Nanobiotechnology

Genetic engineering

Monoclonal antibodies

Telomeres and telomerase

Epigenetic therapy

Zinc-finger enzymes




Cell modeling


Synthetic biology

Modifying gene expression

Drug discovery

Protein engineering

DNA sequencing

Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books

Recommended references: Web sites

The Polymerase Chain Reaction
Good article for a general audience by Tabitha M. Powledge. Describes how PCR works and what it's used for. Contains a list of suggested reading.
Antiviral Chemotherapy
Good survey of different types of antiviral agents, by Jack M. Bernstein.
Polymerase Chain Reaction
Brief May 1998 story from Scientific American explaining polymerase chain reactions.
RNA Interference
Very short overview of the discovery of RNAi.

Telomeres, telomerase

GenLink Multimedia Telomere Resource
Articles and links to information and databases related to telomeres.


The Prospects for Antisense Therapy
Good 1999 survey article by Alan M. Gewirtz.
Antisense Genes
Short summary from Molecular Genetics by Ulrich Melcher.
Antisense Makes Sense
Very brief July 2001 Article in Technology Review.
Oligonucleotide-based strategies to reduce gene expression
2001 technical paper by John M. Dagle and Daniel L. Weeks, in PDF format.
Making Sense of Antisense
August 1998 news article in The Scientist about the development of antisense therapies.

RNA interference

RNA Interference and Gene Silencing: History and Overview
General information on RNA interference and post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS), provided by Ambion, Inc..
The RNA Interference Resource
A resource page with a number of links to information about RNAi, provided by Ambion, Inc..


A Drug to Call One's Own
August 2005 Scientific American In Focus article about using personal genomic data to determine the probable efficacy and safety of particular drugs.

Monoclonal antibodies

Supercharging Protein Manufacture
January 2004 Scientific American story about better ways to manuafacture monoclonal antibodies.

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Building Better Proteins
Bob Grant
The Scientist, June 2010
Antibodies are big business. And emerging technologies to optimize their therapeutic potential may make them even bigger.
W. Wayt Gibbs
Scientific American, August 2005
Sugar Added
W. Wayt Gibbs
Scientific American, July 2003
Nanobiotech Makes the Diagnosis
Alexandra Stikeman
Technology Review, May 2002, pp. 60-66
A number of new tools are under development that use techniques from nanotechnology to detect and measure biological molecules, such as DNA and proteins, for a variety of medical diagnostic tasks.
The Virtual Cell
Gary Taubes
Technology Review, April 2002, pp. 63-71
A large research effort is getting underway to build computer models of individual cells and cellular networks. Eventually such models will encompass entire organisms. The effort will eventually surpass the Human Genome Project in size, and should be even more important for the understanding of fundamental biology and development of more effective pharmaceuticals.
Custom-Made Medications
Rebecca Zacks
Technology Review, December 2001, pp. 82-85
An interview with Mark Levin, CEO of Millennium Pharmaceuticals, provides some answers to how biotechnology will help provide "personalized medicine" -- diagnostics and drugs better suited for individual needs.
Vessels of Death or Life
Rakesh K. Jain; Peter F. Carmeliet
Scientific American, December 2001, pp. 38-45
Angiogenesis is the process of forming blood vessels. Stimulation of angiogenesis is an important technique for treating heart disease. Inhibition of angiogenesis may be even more important in treating many types of cancer and other disease.
Beyond Chicken Soup
William A. Haseltine
Scientific American, November 2001, pp. 56-63
The life cycle of a virus is complex, comprising a number of stages. There are opportunities to develop agents which will interfer with viral reproduction at each stage. The ability to easily sequence the genetic material of virues has been a great help in this effort.
Speeding Drug Discovery
Gary Taubes
Technology Review, October 2001, pp. 62-69
The Human Genome Project and related efforts have created a massive amount of raw information on possible drug targets. But the costs of developing a successful drug candidate to the status of an approved drug are so large that it is imperative that automated, industrial techniques be used to identify the best candidates as early as possible.
Magic Bullets Fly Again
Carol Ezzell
Scientific American, October 2001, pp. 34-41
Monoclonal antibodies use natural components of the immune system to selectively target specific disease-related antigens. They have long been regarded as an efficient means of delivering therapeutics but have been slow to fulfill their promise. This may finally be changing, with 10 monoclonal antibodies now approved for use, and more on the way.
Cybernetic Cells
W. Wayt Gibbs
Scientific American, August 2001, pp. 52-57
Computer models are now being constructed to simulate the biochemistry of cells. Such "in silico" experiments, together with rapidly accumulating genomic and proteomic data, should eventually make it possible to discover and evaluate potential drugs much more efficiently.
Medicine Gets Personal
Marc Wortman
Technology Review, January/February 2001, pp. 72-78
Pharmacogenomics is the name given to the effort to tailor pharmaceuticals to the unique genome of each individual. The objective is to produce drugs that work optimally for a given person, while avoiding predictable adverse side-effects.
Biotech Speeds its Evolution
Kathryn Brown
Technology Review, November-December 2000, pp. 84-90
"Directed evolution" is an alternative to "rational drug design" for developing proteins with specific pharmaceutical properties. The basic idea is to systematically create variations of a gene, insert the variants into the DNA of bacteria, test the resulting proteins for desired properties, then iterate the process with the genes that produced the best results.
Winning combination
Robert F. Service
Technology Review, May-June 1998, pp. 34-41
Combinatorial chemistry is the use of automated processes to synthesize new chemical compounds and screen them for useful properties. It's already used in drug R & D and may be applied more generally in materials science.
The New Genetic Medicines
Jack S. Cohen; Michael E. Hogan
Scientific American, December 1994, pp. 76-82
A number of diseases result from harmful or inappropriate behavior of certain proteins. Traditional drugs often act by inhibiting the activity of such proteins. New drugs may be possible that act by inhibiting the production of the proteins themselves.

Recommended references: Books


Copyright © 2002 by Charles Daney, All Rights Reserved