Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Coffee is good for you?

Maybe so. According to this story found on, caffeine (found in coffee, cokes, etc . . .) may actually improve short term memory. Now where did I put my coffee mug . . .I forgot.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Junk faxes be-damned!

Once again in an attempt to keep this blog from getting bogged down in too much science I bring you this article: Talking Back To the Junk Fax If you are tired of receiving junk faxes, then I suggest you try some of the tips suggested. I especially like this idea:
When Tyler receives a junk fax, she takes a piece of black paper, puts it in her fax machine and dials the "fax replies to" number or the transmission fax number on the junk fax. Before transmitting, she tapes the ends of the paper together to make a loop. "Your very dark fax will be sent on an endless loop until someone at the other end realizes what's happening and interrupts the transmission," she says. "This may not get you removed from the list but it sure makes you feel a lot better! And I've never had a repeat junk fax after I've used this trick."
Of course, you don't necessarily have to reserve these tactics for junk faxers. I imagine the above tactic could be used very nicely for a very expensive practical joke.


Sembiosys plant derived insulin bio-equivalent to human insulin

Sembiosys will publish positive results from their research into the bioequivalance of their recombinant, plant-derived insulin product compared to the equivalent recombinant product produced using traditional techniques. The plant-derived insulin was expressed in arabidopsis seed. The next step for Sembiosys will be the expression of this product in their commercial expression system, safflower using their Stratosome(TM) Biologics System. The abstract for the published results is here

Monday, November 28, 2005


Swiss say no to GMOs

The Swiss have voted to ban the use of GM plants and animals for five years. If the referendum is passed by the legislature, this will be the toughest set of regulations put forth in Europe. Polls show that 55% of the population support such a ban. Particular support is coming from parts of the farming community intersted in organic farming. There is still a long road ahead to gain public approval of GMOs. An anti-GMO measure was recently voted down in Sonoma County, California. The debate rages on . . .


Save FarmHouse

As if being a graduate student wasn't enough, I also am an advisor to the Michigan State Farmhouse chapter. Yeah, I don't know what the fun of trying to keep 40 college guys in line is but I enjoy it. However, my main troubles right now is not trying to keep the guys in line, but it is putting up with the East Lansing city government. So here is the background story: Michigan State Farmhouse is located at 151 Bogue St., which is located in what is commonly known as Cedar Village. Unfortunately, Cedar Village has gotten a pretty bad rap in the past few years because of mainly non-MSU students congregating in the area and starting riots after big basketball games. Well, the city's solution to this problem is to bulldoze the entire area, rebranding it as the "East Village", building 4-8 story "multi-use" buildings, and increasing the population by 4,000. Basically, they want to recruit 4,000 "young-professionals" and "empty-nesters" to co-exist with 2,000 students. Although the city has said that Farmhouse does not have to redevelop, their master plan calls for a road to run right through our property, meaning they will have to use eminent domain to take our property from us. Unlike a regular home-owner, a fraternity can not just up and move to a different house. We need an institutional-style building (think college dorm) and these can't be found everywhere and are very expensive to build. Now for the cool part: The property owners in this area have rallied behind Farmhouse and have started I encourage you to visit the site and learn more about this pipe-dream that the critters in East Lansing City Government have dreamed up. By the way, our chapter was just recently named the outstanding fraternity of the year on MSU's campus and has been named the best maintained fraternity on campus for the past two years.


Welcome back from turkey day

Welcome back everyone. Hope everyone had a good turkey day. Made the 8 hour trip back to Owensboro, KY for the weekend. Had a little trouble with some snowy weather but nothing too bad. I basically just relaxed this weekend, not any major reading or researching, just alot of T.V. and turkey (and hence, no posts). I did have several adventures this weekend. For the first time in about 2 1/2 years I made it over to Casino Aztar in Evansville, IN and made a donation to the company. I can also cross off the "Yellow Rose" in Owensboro as a bar I have never visited. Lets put it this way, just imagine the bar from Roadhouse and you have the Yellow Rose. Well, back to the grind.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Sembiosys uses debt financing for capital expansion

Sembiosys has secured 2.5 million in debt financing from Oxford Finance Corporation of Virginia for capital asset purchases. According to the press release, these capital asset purchases will triple their plant growth capacity. This expansion is needed as Sembiosys moves its insulin and Apo AI drugs from research into a commercialization phase.


Growers Research Group and LSBC ink licensing deal

Growers Research Group has:
entered into a research license and option agreement centered on LSBC's proprietary GENEWARE® plant gene expression technology. The license provides GRG with access to a key technology, developed internally and extensively patented by LSBC, to accelerate development of new products for use in agriculture.
My interpretation: LSBC has passed the development of their lysozyme project over to GRC in an attempt to further focus their business model (production of therapeutic recombinant enzymes). I suspect that they don't want to commit what resources they have left to the progression of this project. This is pretty much backed up by a quote from Greg Pogue, Vice President, Research and Development:
"By licensing a technology asset in a field of use which is no longer part of our core portfolio, we generate value for LSBC while focusing our efforts in our core business, namely, the development of novel and follow-on plant-made biopharmaceuticals,"


Monday, November 21, 2005


Surely you must be joking! A book recommendation?

If you haven't heard of Richard Feynman, check him out. Dr. Feynman(now deaceased) was, according to his website a:
scientist, teacher, raconteur, and musician. He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb, expanded the understanding of quantum electrodynamics, translated Mayan hieroglyphics, and cut to the heart of the Challenger disaster. But beyond all of that, Richard Feynman was a unique and multi-faceted individual.
Feynman is one of my favorite intellectuals. I have read two of his books, both autobiographies, and would highly recommend them. You are probably thinking, this guy was a physicist, and his life was interesting enough for two books? Well, yeah, basically it was. In "What Do You Care What Other People Think", Feynman basically recounts his younger days growing up and how he first got interested in physics through fixing radios. The book goes on to explore his days working in Los Alamos on the atomic bomb and how he learned to pick the locks (for fun) of safes that contained top-secret information. Dr. Feynman also explored some very interesting techniques for picking up women. To make a long story short, this is not the story of your average college professor, I would almost dare to say he had a quite interesting life outside of science (sorry if I have offended any average college professors reading along). In the sequel to "What Do You Care . . ." entitled "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!" Dr. Feynman recounts parts of his latter career while sprinkling in a few more stories from his earlier days. Dr. Feynman is the person that is most credited with the discovery of the O-ring failures that lead to the Challenger destruction, but he will tell you in his book that this was not necessarily the whole story . . . I'll let you read more about that on your own. So with Thanksgiving coming up, I would suggest picking up one of these two books for a post feast reading.


I'll take potpourri for $500 Alex (2)

I took the weekend off from posting. Didn't do too much, kind of a relaxing weekend. Anyways, back to the grind. Today's post falls under the "potpourri" category, with a little bit of everything included. First up: Trends in Plant Science has a few interesting articles in press regarding the plant biotech industry, in particular, Julian Ma and the European Union Framework 6 Pharma-Planta Consortium crew have a good review of issues facing the PMP (or PDP) industry. I took in my second ever hockey game Friday night. I've got to admit, I'm kind of getting hooked on hockey (yeah, I've got to get back closer to home before I really turn into a northerner). Unfortunately, the Michigan State Hockey team remained in a funk and fought Western Michigan to a 3-3 tie. Now for some blog housekeeping: I was lucky enough to sign up for Google Analytics before they cut off their free signups. It's really neat to see some of the data that I can collect from my visitors. I'll be using that data to work on improving this site. For example, Google is doing a nice job of referring visitors to my company reference entries. Therefore, I need to work on getting those entries a little more updated and polished up. It's also nice to see friends, family, and former co-workers are keeping an eye on me. Keep it up and drop me a line sometime. Now for a totally useless site: I present elgooG. Basically its a mirror of Google backwards, try it out, and here's a hint if you try to use the search function, everything there is backwards.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Cornell Opens Plant Biotech Center

From - Cornell opens research park devoted to farming
GENEVA, N.Y. -- Cornell University on Wednesday opened a new 72-acre research park dedicated to agriculture and food technology. "Cornell University is committed to technology transfer as a potential engine for economic development," said Susan Henry, dean of Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Science.
Looks like New York wants to get into the plant biotech game.


Biolex adds three to management team

Biolex continues on its media blitz with this following announcement. Biolex announced Wednesday the addition of three new personnel in their management ranks. Included in the additions is Glen Williams, former vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen Idec's Research Triangle Park facilities. Also included are two former Bayer Healthcare LLC employees, Ms. Dee Parson Grange and Dr. John Elliott Humphries. Williams will serve as senior vice president of operations, Ms. Dee Parson Grange will serve as vice president of business development and Dr. Humphries will serve as vice president of development.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


You mean there are only 24 hours in one day?

Once again, I have been neglecting this blog. But I haven't been slacking on the blogging front in general. I was thinking the other day, if one blog takes this much time to maintain properly, why not maintain two? So, I decided to start another blog, this one being called the Ag Moment. Basically, this blog is geared more towards the farmer and agriculture retailers out there and is a roundup of daily general agriculture news. I haven't forgot about CSFTB, though, and I'll try to split my time between the two as equally as possible. I've got a few ideas for content and design up my sleeve, hopefully you will see some of these soon. Now, for some news on the plant biotech front: Matt Mullen's Ag Bio Biz Blog is doing a great job covering the recent story in the Wall Street Journal regarding GMO plants. This latest entry is focused on the response garnered by the article. Apparently, the writer should have done a little more research (I pointed that out here).


Ventria's move to Missouri is on the ropes

It looks like Ventria's planned lock, stock, and barrel move to Missouri may not be happening after all. The Missouri Development Finance Board has decided NOT to pledge $10 million needed for the construction of the Missouri Center of Excellence for Plant Biologics on campus at Northwest Missouri State University. In the article linked above from the Maryville Daily, Scott Deeter, CEO of Ventria had this comment:
“We regret that after several attempts, the financing did not materialize, leading to delays that require Ventria to consider other options for fulfilling its business objectives,"
This is a definite opportunity for other communities out there looking to develop their own plant biotech community. It will be interesting to see where they land.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


A victory in California for GMOs, small biotechs still fighting for government cheese

Its a special 2 for 1 post today: First up, (and again gleaned from Matt Mullen's blog here and here), residents of Sonoma county, California voted down Measure M, which would effectively ban the cultivation of any organism that was genetically altered using state-of-the-art techniques. I would call the margin of victory pretty sizeable, being 55-44%. I think this victory will give the plant biotechs some "political capital" for spending in the never ending process of gaining government and public acceptance. And this "political capital" could be really be used by some small biotechs right about now. Several companies (also accessed through and industry organizations lined up yesterday to put pressure on Congress to reverse the Small Business Administration's changes in who may qualify for SBIR loans (more about this change here). These changes have affected PMP companies such as Chlorogen. David Duncan, president and CEO of Chlorogen had this to say in a statement to PR newswire yesterday:
"It's ironic that when the news is filled with stories of the flu and pandemics, our firm has had to shelve its bio-defense vaccine program which could potentially deliver massive quantities of vaccines against anthrax, cholera and other afflictions. Why? Because under the current rules of SBA, our firm of only 12 employees is no longer a 'small' business,"


Tuesday, November 08, 2005


GMOs take the front page

Thanks to Matt Mullen's ag bio biz blog for the head's up on this one (more on his blog below). The battle between farmers growing GMO crops vs. non-GMO crops takes a front page spot on the Wall-Street Journal today. One possible flaw in the story I want to point out. Under the heading Contaminated Seed, the story states:
The debate over GM contamination has surfaced most passionately in Mexico. Four years ago, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that GM corn had mingled with native varieties in the southern state of Oaxaca. The report, later supported by Mexican government research, staggered local farmers. Mexican peasants depend on corn for as much as 40% of their diet, using it in everything from tortillas to a hot drink called "atole."
However, a recent article in Science (and blogged here), reported that this contamination had disappeared when a follow up study was performed. Reasons for this disappearance could not be explained. Now, for Matt Mullen's ag bio biz blog. I just stumbled upon this blog today and it is another good one based on the agriculture biotech industry. Mr. Mullen is "a magazine editor of publications providing growers of row crops with production and business information" and his writings show it. This is one to put on regular rotation. For those of you with interests in Tobacco, and some of my readers are, he also authors the Tobacco Farm Blog. Enjoy!

Monday, November 07, 2005


Sometimes science and the church can get along

File this under "why isn't there more of this going on in schools today?". At a genome sequencing conference held in Hilton Head, South Carolina last month, a group of students from the Sacred Heart Academy, an all Catholic girls school, in Hamden Connecticut presented their results from sequencing osteoporosis-related genes in bovine. The sequence data was good enough to even be included in Genbank. We really need more of this kind of thing happening in our high schools. The way this program is set up is very impressive. After hearing a presentation by this school at the conference in 1998, Agilent decided to donate a sequencer to the school. Coupled with a $20,000 dollar grant (okay, so raising this kind of money would be a little hard for most schools) and you have one heck of a high-school research program! And talk about a research program:
The DNA sequencing project was part of Sacred Heart's campuswide, multidisciplinary effort focusing on the examination and understanding of osteoporosis, and involving every student in the school.
How many high-schools do you know with a research focus?


Get your Nature Erratum - on

Just got an e-mail referring me to yet another science-related blog. This one is called nature erratum. This blog is being maintained by a newly minted Ph.D. and it focuses on "the life and opinions of young medical scientists (pre-faculty)." I recommend checking it out (and thanks for the link!).

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Get your "freak on - omics"

Note: This should have been posted last Thursday, sorry for the delay. Michigan State University brings in several speakers a year for a lecture series called the "Worldview Lecture Series". I think they usually have one or two a semester and they are free to all students and staff. Several weeks ago, I attended a very intriguing lecture by the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (of PBS fame for documentaries on Baseball and the Civil War to name a few). But that's not what I want to talk about tonight. Tonight I had the priveldge of hearing a lecture by Stephen Dubner, of Freaknomics fame. If you haven't heard of the book Freaknomics (or have but haven't picked up a copy of it)I would highly encourage you to check it out. The book was co-written by Stephen Dubner and Stephen Levitt. Who are these guys? Well, Mr. Dubner is a journalist who as a few books to his credit (I won't list them here, you can check out his website) and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times. Steven Levitt is one of the more highly regarded younger economist in the United States (if not the world) and is currently a professor at the Univesity of Chicago. The collaboration between the two authors is working very well as Dubner is able to understand the data and proposals being put forth by Levitt and is able to communicate them in a way that is understanbable to common folk like us biochemists. In summary Freakonomics is: well, I don't know how to really explain it. The authors proclaim that their is no unifying theme behind the book, but rather a series of stories that look at the economics of certain topics. The book looks at such issues as the economics of drug dealing and explains why drug dealers still live with their mothers. The book also uses statistical approaches to study cheating amongst teachers and sumo wrestlers. The book even looks at what makes a good parent. The authors have stirred some controversy with this book as it has brought into the mainstream Dr. Levitt's theory that the legalization of abortion caused drops in crime rates during the 80s and 90s. I won't go into details about the book, but I want to present my thoughts after reading it: The more I chew on the stories presented in this book, the more I look at economics in a new light. Some people have focused on the individual stories presented and the authors take on the controversies surrounding them but that is not what I really focused on. The point brought home to me is that economics is really the study of incentives. Their are incentives to being a drug dealer making less than minimum wage. There are incentives to being a teacher that cheats. The basis for everything we do is based on incentives. I guess I never really looked at the world that way. Overall the lecture was very enjoyable. Most of the topics covered were already visited in the book although there was some that wasn't, including the the first documented case of monkey prostitution (that story would probably be incentive enough for me to recommend his lecture to someone). Perhaps the most humorous (maybe thought provoking) part of the night came during the question and answer session. The question was asked, what is the reasoning behind people wanting to gamble when they know that they are going to lose their money? The answer is the same reason why people vote. Before I explain, let me say that Mr. Dubner and Dr. Levitt have a column coming out in the New York Times this Sunday concerning why people vote. The answer to both of these questions is that we are paying for the rights to fantasize. By putting a quarter in a slot machine or buying lottery ticket, we are buying the right to fantasize about what we would do with all those millions we are about to win. In the same way, by voting, we are buying the right to believe that we are single-handedly changing world policies. In a utilitarian view, the chances of coming up a millionaire or casting the deciding vote that puts a Democrat in the White House to stop the war and stop world hunger are slim. If you don't rush out and buy the book, at least check out their website, it has several hours worth of reading material on it. I have read the book and will say that it is a very enjoyable read.

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