Thursday, September 29, 2005


Was Greenpeace misquoted? You decide

I recently found a pretty interesting article on dealing with a claim made that Greenpeace supported GM Pharming. Upon further review, this claim deals with a statement made by Eric Murphy, Agragen's chief scientist in a recent article regarding Agragen.
Greenpeace, which normally opposes GMOs, was quoted in a recent news report saying it favors PMP production of a recombinant form of omega-3, Murphy says.
So what is this news report supposedly claiming Greenpeace's support of GM Pharming? Well, I did a little research trying to find this article and about the closest I could find was this. This article focuses on Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace and former president of the organization. Dr. Moore recently split with Greenpeace, stating in part that "by the mid-1980s, the environmental movement had abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism," and has formed his own movement called Greenspirit. In this article, Dr. Moore had this to say about genetically enhanced plants:
Genetic enhancement: Activists persist in their zero-tolerance campaign against genetically enhanced food crops. There is no evidence of harm to human health or the environment, and benefits are measurable and significant. Genetically enhanced (GE) food crops reduce chemical pesticides, boost yield and reduce soil erosion. Enriched with Vitamin A, Golden Rice could prevent blindness in 500,000 children per year in Asia and Africa if activists would stop blocking its introduction. Other food crops contain iron, Vitamin E, enhanced protein and better oils. The anti-GE campaign seeks to deny these environmental and nutritional advances by using ''Frankenfood'' scare tactics and misinformation campaigns.
So, did Greenpeace really endorse GM Pharming, well I'll let you decide that one. By the way, if you can find any other article regarding Greenpeace's reported endorsement of GM Pharming, please pass it along.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Wouldn't it be great?

Wouldn't it be great if there was a computer operating system that was small enough to fit on a CD, including all the essential programs like Word, excel, outlook, and a web browser like Firefox. And what the heck, lets make all that available for free. With any computer that has a bootable CD-ROM drive you could drop this CD in it and have your own personal operating system up and running on that computer. Oh wait, you can do that. You know, I try to keep up with technology but looking at what is available these days, I have definitely slipped a little. So what is this great little CD I am talking about, it is Knoppix. Knoppix is what is known as a live CD and contains a version of the linux operating system along with several open source programs such as the MS office clone, Open Office and that great web browser, Firefox. So I now have the option of booting to a linux operating system without having to worry about partitioning my hard drive, which is not for the faint of heart. The only real tricky part of this whole experience has been burning the CD-image that I downloaded correctly onto a CD, which involved a little bit of special software. After that, I had to contact the "computer guru" of our department to set my CD-Rom drive as the first drive the BIOS looks at when booting because the previous "guru" had password-protected changes to the BIOS system. After that, I was in business. Knoppix, or any linux OS does not like to share hard drive space with Windows XP, so in order to save anything the easiest option is saving to a USB drive (I am currently working on that). Because Knoppix is open source, there are several customized versions available, including Gnoppix which uses a different GUI, and a version I am looking forward to sniffing around in - BioKnoppix, a version that comes loaded with Bioinformatics software. Hopefully I will never have to use this disk for this reason but Knoppix can be used as a recovery disk to recover information from a hard drive when your Windows OS crashes. And did I mention it is free!!!! By the way, this post is the first (maybe of many) written using the firefox browser running on a Knoppix/Linux operating system. Alright, back to learning this new OS.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Agragen wants to work with North Dakota communities

The second of two quick posts for tonight. Agragen's top executives published a commentary in the Grand Forks Herald on 9/14/05. In this commentary, the executives take their case straight to the public for why they wish to set up shop in North Dakota. Agragen has been catching some flak over their plans from Ameriflax. The commentary goes on to point out similar disputes that arose with Ventria and Budweiser and how these disputes where resolved and how hopefully, their similar disputes can too. To my (biased) eye, this is a very good move and I hope that Agragen's dealings in North Dakota will move forward. As I said in the other post for today, I feel a big state of the industry review brewing and I'll have more to say then.


Ventria breaks ground on their Missouri center

The first of two quick posts tonight: Ventria has broken ground on their new headquarters being built on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University. They also reported that their field research testing whether varieties of rice can be grown in northern Missouri also went well. About $10 million of the construction costs for the $23 million dollar facility will come from state funds. Hopefully, I will have more to add to this towards the end of the week in a planned review.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Nothing new under the sun

A quick post tonight. Nothing to new to report, just a few random thoughts and links. Hopefully, I can get this posted tonight. I am working on the MSU campus tonight and the internet has been incredibly slow. It has been this way since the fall semester started. Our campus is hooked up to the Merit or "internet2" or whatever it is called backbone but tonight I think I would get better service from a 56K modem. The web-based e-mail has also been slower than Hotmail on a bad day lately. I guess the IT guys here just can't comprehend the fact that adding 40,000 or so people to a network when the fall semester starts can be a significant event. Oh well, geeze, with these last few posts you would think I have been in a bad mood lately but I am not really. Actually, these last few days have been really good. Anyway, time for the weekend link of interest and it is: The Million Dollar Homepage A student is attempting (an doing a dang good job of it) to pay his way through his undergraduate studies buy selling advertising space on his site at $1/pixel. Apparently it is working out pretty well. There is a pretty interesting gimish of adverts ranging from personal blogs and homepages to the normal casino and home mortgage spam. But hey, this may be one of the only cases where spammers are doing a good thing by paying for this guys college. You will also notice that I've made a few touch-ups to the ole' blog. I've added a random quote generator at the top of the page, hopefully I'll get it filled with some pretty good quotes. I'll be adding a few more links and blogs o' interest so be on the lookout for some news ones, and doing some general house(blog)keeping too. One last thought - I was reading an artcle over at BiotechNik's site about intrinsic stock valuations when he mentioned he was still using an old HP15C. What is it about these things that make them stick around? I guess I am from a younger generation who have never used this type of calculator. For those of you who don't know, these old HP calculators work in a "reverse polish" fashion. I can't even begin to explain how to operate this thing much less ever try to calculate something on them. Nevertheless, it is inevitable that you will see one of these in just about every lab you visit. One good thing about these calculators is that they hardly ever get "borrowed", because who would want to use the thing. Here's to a great week!

Friday, September 23, 2005


You heard it first at CSFTB

I only admit to being a partial expert in the plant-made pharmaceutical industry. However, apparently I called one right in the search engine industry. After Interactive Corp aquired, they announced on Wednesday that Jeeves would be sacked. Followers of CSFTB would remember that I reported in August that Jeeve's was interviewing for other jobs. Although I did report later that maybe the development of some new products would save his job, this was not enough. The last straw came when Jeeves showed up Monday dressed like a pirate for "Talk like a pirate day". Alright enough kidding aside. I am by no means an expert in marketing or in search engine technology but what the heck are these guys doing? is a respectable search engine, although it probably isn't the leader in this field. Taking away Jeeve's is like Google deciding that their name isn't professional enough and changing it to something like "Worldsearch" or something. Hey I agree that the old days of three years ago when a flashy name for a website bagged you a couple million in an IPO are over but please. The internet has become a very powerful research tool, but that doesn't mean you can't have some fun while using it, so what if that fun comes from pretending that you are asking a fictional character for the information. I am hereby invoking an exception from my rule 3 of common sense for a biochemist here. What the heck do these stuffed suits think they are doing? Do they even know how to surf the internet using anything better than AOL's web browser from version 3.0? Thank you for taking what little fun I could have out of performing relevant searches on the internet. I will go home now and eat my one serving of gruel and be happy with that, not asking for another serving. Alright, I am done venting now, I mean it, really. Hey Jeeve's, now that you have been "negatively retained", how about getting in contact with me? I could probably struggle to pay you minimum wage to promote my site but we could work in some bonuses or something for attracting attention to my site. Just think it over. I can put you in a lab coat, show you a few pipetting techniques, let you run a few protein gels, and you would be set. Hey, science is more fulfilling than being a butler right? Insn't it? Oh come on, being a scientist isn't all that bad? Right?


A bit of common sense for the Biochemist pt. 8

"Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, September 22, 2005


The never ending quest to keep your web self organized, pt 8.

So now I'm an expert on this subject huh? At least that is according to Mike at Mindvalley. Here is a recent comment he left for a recent entry
I have enjoyed reading all of your comments about web-based social bookmarking and thought you might like to check out If you get a chance to check it out, would love to hear your thoughts since you are an expert user in this space and very familiar with all the offerings out there. Cheers and keep up the blogging! Mike
Alright, so maybe he was pandering a little bit for some attention but what the heck I appreciate the comments. So I went over to Blinklist to check it out. Log-in and registration is simple. I had my links imported in under a minute. From there, it was a quick drag and drop of a "blink this site" button onto my firefox browser and I was underway. The user interface is a little more fancy than and you know I like simple but I can handle it. The extra bells and whistles are pretty handy. There is a starring option by each link which adds that link to a list of favorites. There is also a list of recently visited tags and a pretty neat "cloud" representation for your tags. The blinklist toolbar gives you quick access to manually add a link. The server response for adding links, etc. . . was pretty fast. The only improvement I can suggest at this time is to list all of my tags (like does) when I am adding a new link and be able to click on a tag to add it to a link. All-in-all, I would say this site gives (my gold standard) a run for its money. It is definitely worth giving this site an extended trial period. Definitely worth checking out! If you are coming in late to this thread, here is (a by no means complete) list of social bookmarking sites: MyJeeves Simpy - Added 9/25/05 If there are any (and there are) sites I have left out, please drop me a comment, I think I'll keep updating this list and if I come across something worth writing about, I will.


September 2005 Nature Biotech is a good 'un

The September 2005 issue of Nature Biotech is a very good read. The focus of this issue is on antibody engineering and manufacture, something that I take a particular interest in. The issue does a good job bringing the reader up to speed on the history of antibody therapuetics, the current crop of therapeutics (both commercially available and under development), methods of production, and where this subject is going. Of particular interest of for methods of production as is relates to the "pharming industry" is the Production of human monoclonal antibody in eggs of chimeric chickens. The authors of this research where able to create chimeric (partially transgenic) chickens that expressed significant quantities of recombinant human monoclonal antibodies only in the egg (3mg/egg). The levels of successful chicken chimeras formed seemed to be pretty high, however, no transgenic offspring were produced from the chimeras (so far). Here is a link to a review of this research in the same NBT issue. One more note, this issue also contains the research article that I talked about here regarding a plant-derived antibiotic resistant marker gene.


LSBC and Icon Genetics announce the completion of something

The world of biotech is full of vague press releases, but this one could almost take the cake. Large Scale Biology Corporation and Icon Genetics AG Announce Successful Completion of Research Phase of Product Development Collaboration. Of course with all vague press releases, there is lots of room to spectulate so lets make some speculations. From following both of these companies, I would say that the enzyme under development as an enzyme replacement therapy is Icon's Phenylalanine ammonia lyase (an enzyme replacement candidate for phenylketonuria). Icon tested this product in field trials in conjunction with KTRDC this summer. I would speculate that the success of these field trials has something to do with this press release. As far as the "initiation of the commercial phase of the collaboration." I would speculate that this means that the two companies will start looking for a big pharma partner for funding of further development. Without anymore information I would not want make anymore inferences.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Keeping your web-self organized pt.6

Since I have devoted several entries to web-based social bookmarking subjects (pt. 5, pt. 4, pt. 3), I thought I would keep the thread going. Keat's telecsope has weighed in on the subject and brings up some good points about whether your bookmarking habits may give away a research competitive edge. Head over there and check out his thoughts. Personally, I think this could be a possibility, but the advantages of such systems far outweigh the possible negatives.


I see you have bought a shirt, need to refinance your home loan?

Doesn't make sense does it? Well, I guess not to me it doesn't but apparently Mervyn's department stores thinks it is very logical. The story goes like this: Several months ago I went to Mervyn's and bought a some new shirts and jeans. When I went to pay, they offered me at 15% discount if I would sign up for their Mervyn's card. That was my first mistake. Anyways, I signed up, paid and went on my way. Fast forward a couple of months and I start seeing missed calls from (513) 619-2683 on my cell phone. Of course, whoever called (a computer) left no voice mail. I called the number back and got a recording stating "RDI Marketing Services has called me for research or sales purposes". This went on for a period of about a week where I would get about one or two of these phone calls a day (which I ignored because they left no voicemail and when I called back I got a recording). Finally, I was able to catch them when they called. The lady calling stated that she was with GE Money bank who handled the Mervyn's card accounts and since I was a Mervyn's customer and since I owned my home and since they were a bank, she would like to give me a quote to refinance my home loan! WTF!!!!! The lengths that these companies go to nowadays to get around the telemarketing rules. You know, Mervyn's has good quality cheap clothes that a grad student can afford but this really peeved me and I really don't know if I want to give them my business anymore. I can not wait to start getting calls asking me if I need to purchase funeral services just because I bought a steak knife at the grocery store (I'll never sign up for a Kroger card simply because of that reason). Mervyn's has recently announced that they will be closing about a quarter of their stores that were not making any money. You know maybe if they would focus on customer satisfaction instead of making money by selling customer information, they could turn a buck or two. Another similar case (albeit a little less annoying) happened to me just today. As I was perusing one of the premier research journals whose name will remain anonymous, I kept getting pop-under ads telling me that "I had won a new laptop" (and yes, it was just when I was browsing this one site and no, I don't have any spyware on my computer). If this was the Drudgereport I could understand, but this was a respectable publisher. I guess making a quick buck is easier than profiting by making your customers satisfied. Ok, I am done venting now, back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Who knew left-handed DNA was so abundant

So if you know anything about DNA, then you know that in it's native form, it exits as a helix with a right-handed twist. If you don't know anything about DNA, then it still exists in a helical form with a right-handed twist. In very rare circumstances, you will find DNA forming a left handed helix, but this is very uncommon. That is, unless you believe what the mass media tells you. The left-handed DNA hall of fame has cataloged those instances where the "artist" in charge of creating a pretty picture of a DNA helix has not consulted with his local molecular biologist for accuracy (or the local molecular biologist got his degree from the internet). Check it out.


Dow Agrisciences signs collaborations with Chlorogen

Dow Agrisciences and Chlorogen announced two collaborations last Friday. Under the first, the two companies will work to develop technologies for the production of recombinant proteins in plant cell cultures. The second agreement focuses on the development of Chlorogen's chloroplast transformation technology for the introduction of proprietary traits in crop plants. This is not the first time Dow Agrisciences has dabbled in this type of technology. Dow ended a multi-year collaboration with Large Scale Biology in 2001. Revenues from this collaboration was $52 million for LSBC. It is good to see Dow investing in this type of technology again. Added 9/19/05 - Another note of interest is that the first collaboration involves the use of plant cell cultures, and not whole plants???

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Our numbers are growing

I would like to give a belated welcome to another blogger whose interests lay in biotech. The Medicine Vault is written by "a mid-level biopharmaceutical worker desperately trying to keep a job and earn a living, raise a family, and stay awake all without opening a vein." As my career plans are currently under major revision, an entry of his is particulary relevant. It is especially true in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry that you are basically a contract worker. Although it is not the best position to be in, from my experience in the "real world" you just have to get used to it. You also have to be very careful with you financial planning, making sure that you have a little put away just in case the company tradewinds start blowing a different direction and you find yourself being "negatively retained"


Pandering to my main audience

I know most of my "audience" out there probably has a different political viewpoint than I. So in what can only be called blatant pandering to my audience I serve forth the following pictures. Above picture from Jeremy Zawodny's Flikr Stream
And I must say that this last story even gets a WTF from me: Bush lifts wage rules for Katrina


Whats the matter, bug got your tongue?

I don't know whether to file this under funny or scientifically important but according to the BBC, a bug has been found that eats the tongue of a fish and replaces it with its own body.
But don't be too freaked out - scientists say the creature does not pose any threat to humans and only attaches itself to fish tongues.



New "linkblog" in place

Doing a little "blog improvement" over here at Common Sense for the Biochemist. I figured out a neat little way to have my latest links saved at to be posted on this blog. I am using to read my RSS feed from my account and create a chunk of Javascript. That javascript chunk can then be put in my blog template code and viola, a linkblog tied to my account. The linkblog is found in the left-hand column just below the Plant Pharma links. I also removed the Link2blogs tower as this was not bringing many visitors to my site. More improvements and updates are on the way.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Neat Periodic Table of the Elements

Here is a neat little periodic table made using AJAX coding. Try it out!


Keeping your non-web self organized, pt 1

So I have been on a bender lately evaluating software and apps designed for keeping web bookmarks and references and other items organized (I am currently sniffing around OnFolio). Well, here is a non-computer application (if you want to call it that) to further keep yourself organized, PocketMod. PocketMod is designed to be a replacement for those bulky PDAs and organizers that we tote around. OK, so it is a single piece of paper that can be customized in your browser before printing that can be folded to make a small 8 page notebook. To tell the truth, I think its a pretty neat little organizer, although I have had a little trouble getting it folded right, hey, it was late in the day, after fooling around for about 3 minutes, I finally got it right. Another net little web app is this Notepaper Generator

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Biolex raises $36 million in venture capital

Biolex announced September 1 the completion of another round of venture capital funding. According to the press release, this funding round will be used among other things, to expand their cGMP manufacturing capabilities. Biolex has been on a roll recently, announcing their acquisition of Lemnagene in July and a partnership with Centocor in March.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


The world is my oyster!

Sorry that I have been quite on this blog for so long. As I have stated, life for me has been pretty busy lately and I have made some pretty big life decisions. I am officially announcing that I am wrapping up my research and will at some point disconinuing my pursuit of a doctorate degree. I have decided to get back into the plant-made pharmaceutical industry if I can. I don't have a job lined up yet but I am actively following up on several leads. I went ahead and made this decision before so I could concentrate more on my job search. I believe I could successfully complete my degree and I have enjoyed my research and the lab I am in, but in the end, the Ph.D. is not for me. To be honest, I enjoy working at the bench and the real technical aspects of research, such as process and assay development and that is what I want to continue doing. So all of you readers out there, I am available. For now, this blog will continue on as usual, keeping you informed forces me to keep up-to-date in the PMP field. I'll keep you all up to date on where things are going for me.


Google Desktop version 2 (or keeping your web self organized pt. 5)

Google released version 2 of their desktop search engine last week. This version has a ton of new features in it. I have downloaded it and have to say it is pretty neat. The new version contains a sidebar that displays information based on what sites you have surfed. For instance, there is a stock ticker display that will display the latest price for any stock that you have recently looked up. The sidebar also pulls RSS information from the sites you have visited and continually displays new clips from these sites in the "web clips" section. The program is collecting and recording alot of information about the sites you surf, but I am okay with that. I have found that the search feature is very useful for finding that protocol that you wrote a year ago and buried in your computer filing system. Try it out.


Support for the plant pharma industry

It is great to see an ever growing presence for the plant pharma community on the web. Hopefully we can educate the public about the true risks involved with the production of plant-made pharmaceuticals along with the benefits. Their are many activists out there who are spending alot of money to spread thier version of the truth. In defense of the industry, the folks over at have started an online petition addressed to USDA Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and FDA Commissioner Les Crawford. In recent years, both the USDA and FDA have been working with industry stakeholders and the public to create a set of regulations that are fair to both parties. This petition is in support of continuing this open dialogue and reads in part:
Plant-made pharmaceuticals (PMPs) have the potential to address therapeutic discovery and production issues for real people with real illnesses. Government regulators, academics, health care professionals and independent scientific standards should be the determining factors for how best to take advantage of the important, life-saving opportunities plant-made-pharmaceuticals have to offer – not special-interest groups or activists.
I encourage you to read over this petition and give your support for continued regulation of this industry based on scientific fact and not lobbyist pressure.

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