Lee Hartwell, at 70, Tackles Personalized Medicine, Education in Latest Career Phase

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expertise to contribute. In Arizona, Josh LaBaer, a proteomics expert formerly of Harvard Medical School, has been recruited along with Hartwell to the ASU personalized medicine initiative. Bioengineering professor Alan Nelson is bringing his expertise in spotting circulating tumor cells. John Chaput, a biochemist, adds his know-how of peptides, proteins, and nucleic acids can be engineered with certain attractive properties, like binding with specific targets on cells. Michael Birt, a health policy expert Hartwell has worked with for years in Seattle, will examine health policy implications.

At the Hutch in Seattle, health economist Scott Ramsey will add the economics dimension. A long list of faculty from a younger generation has also been enlisted. The group includes Mandy Paulovich on proteomics, Muneesh Tewari on microRNA, William Grady on colon cancer, Jason Chien on lung cancer. And Hartwell is also maintaining close ties to Sage Bionetworks, the nonprofit effort housed at the Hutch, that is seeking to spark an open source IT-style movement for greater collaboration in biology.

There are still some missing pieces of this personalized medicine puzzle that Hartwell is looking to fill. He is looking to add expertise in molecular imaging to provide another layer of information on top of what others are gathering at the level of genes and proteins, to help strengthen the connections between what’s going wrong at a basic biological level, and how it manifests itself in real-world medical settings. Getting more of that kind of information will help the scientists confirm earlier signals, and allay some fears that physicians might go overboard with treating people who have an early warning sign that might actually be a false alarm.

Finding the correlations in the vast pools of data that will come from gene sequences, protein analysis, and molecular images all depends on continuing advances in information technology, Hartwell says. But when I asked him about the potential of IT to move these fields of biology forward, Hartwell turned the question back to IT’s impact on education. This came up a couple times in our conversation, as if Hartwell wanted to make sure I didn’t forget how central science education is to his next career.

He insists it’s not something he’s doing on the side, but … Next Page »

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