Thursday, July 8, 2010

Indiana Jones on the Frontiers of Science

The ho-hum title of this video is, "Dr. Ian Lipman Discusses Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Potential Promise of Personalized Medicine"

Ho-hum probably because there would be no way to glibly sum the electric, fantastic, mind-boggling description Lipman gives here of The New Biology in Action in language and tenor graspable by young biology students. He starts by describing A Day at the Bioinformatics Lab: "I'll get a phone call or an email...and they say, 'Call such and such a number, we'd like to talk to you about an outbreak'..." and they all set off to solve a respiratory, diarrheal, or neurological mystery. Then, when he's not wearing his Disease Sleuth hat, he runs the Northeast Biodefense Center keeping terrorists with a handful of soil, a synthetic genomics kit, and evil intent from wiping out our cows and corn.

What Lipman is describing, of course, is the NRC's vision of "New Biology"; it's rousing enough to be called "Indiana Jones on the Frontiers of Science", but even better because these stories are happening now.And it's action-packed! He describes multidisciplinary science moving so fast we're throwing the track down from the front of the train kind of action. But it's his description of "Personalized Medicine" that excited me most: "...genomics, metagenomics, proteomics, metabolomics...all these 'omics'," he says will predict and tweak our health, working with or against the microbes and viruses that live on and in us before we're born and throughout our lives. "No longer will we be flying blind until we're 50 and suddenly have heart disease."

Frontiers are exciting and here we are: we're building the ladder while we're climbing it, we're sewing the dress while we're wearing it. I thought you'd like this, targeting budding biologists, as it does - it's a lot of rousing text and labfuls of young people wielding pipettes and looking earnest and smart in latex gloves, protecting our cows, our microbes, our babies, and our hearts.

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