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In the September 2005 special edition of Newsweek: The Future of Medicine, Dr. Leroy Hood, President of The Institute for Systems Biology, was recognized for routinely making milestone discoveries in the complex field of human genetics. The Institute for Systems Biology, founded in 2000 in Seattle,  is a collaborative research center employing 170 staff members which utilizes a revolutionary approach to analyzing biological complexity and how biological system function. Professionally represented in Washington D.C. by Evergreen Associates, LTD, the Institute for Systems Biology is nationally accredited for its groundbreaking discoveries, its vast contributions to the Human Genome Project, and milestone research achievements in cancer and other life-threatening diseases.



The Shape of Things to Come

Meet four visionary scientists who helped map the human genome and are now blazing new trails.

By Mary Carmichael


Summer 2005 - The human genome project may be near completion, but the "real" human-genome project is just getting underway. Scientists now know the sequences of most of our genes. But they don't necessarily know how those genes work or, considering that most of the genome is "junk" DNA that doesn't contribute to the body's normal functioning, whether they work at all. In other words, we've got all the pieces, but we still need to put the puzzle together. Many of the geneticists who worked on the original HGP are now pursuing follow-up projects on their "genes of interest." Here are four who will help give us the complete picture.


The Matchmaker

Leroy Hood is given to car metaphors. "If you want to understand a car, you can't just study the carburetor," he says. "You need to study all the parts and how they function together as the car travels." If that's true, Hood must be the world's best mechanic (metaphorically speaking, of course). When he first went to Caltech in 1970 on a three-year fellowship, he told his department chair that he wanted to spend half his time doing biology and half doing technology development—with the ultimate idea of using that technology to study all the parts of the body simultaneously, as a system, via multiple perspectives. Hood had a vision of devices that could read human DNA and proteins, and computer systems that could analyze the results. "At the end of the three years [the chair] urged me in the strongest possible terms to give up the technology," Hood says. But Hood was stubborn, and he was also right. Now, as president and director of the Institute for Systems Biology—a one-of-a-kind organization based in Seattle and independent of academia—he is a scientific matchmaker, bringing biologists together with chemists, engineers, computer scientists and applied physicists.

Hood's fingerprints are all over modern genetics. He was one of the earliest advocates of the Human Genome Project, at a time when many people thought sequencing the genome was a largely useless, and maybe impossible, goal. He is also one of the people who made the project possible by inventing DNA and protein sequencers, which "read" the molecular contents of those chemicals, and synthesizers, which allow scientists to produce large quantities of them for experimentation. He has played a role in founding several of the country's best-known biotech firms, including Amgen and Applied Biosystems.

Lately he's been working on a project that analyzes how protein molecules fold (page 52)—and, as a result, how they interact with other chemicals in the body to either keep systems running, build new bodily components or, alternately, cause disease. If he ever needed proof that technology and biology were made for each other, the protein-folding project is it. The task would take "a hundred thousand years with our computers," Hood says. But he has a corporate partner in IBM and access to the company's Grid system, which uses "brain" power from computers around the world to do immensely complicated math.


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