Last night I attended a wonderful Seder at the Pitluck Home. Sam Pitluck is a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs Human Genome Center. The Human Genome Center, in conjunction with the US Department of Energy, has been frantically sequencing the human genome and have just published the finished human genome in time to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick's discovery of the double helix. In celebration of the sequencing of the genome, Sam gave us all Genomics Posters as Seder favors (actually, my one year old got a stuffed matzoh man, but the rest of us got Genomics posters). It is actually an incredibly cool poster jam packed with info about the human genome and you can grab a pdf of it on the Department of Energy's Doe Joint Genome Institute website.
The sequencing of the human genome opens up incredible opportunities to understand the human body, disease, longevity, evolution, heredity, etc. But it also creates a huge challenge for information technology. The computational power available today is insufficient to unlock much more than the most trivial genetic relationships. For the sequencing of the human genome to be truly transformative, it will require a transformation of processing power as well. The holy grail on that front is quantum computing which, if achievable, will make gene sequencing trivial. In the mean time while we wait for a functioning quantum computer, genomic research labs look towards distributed processing, purpose built genomic processors and the like to solve their number crunching woes. There's little doubt that gene sequencing and bioinfomatics will be at the heart of biotech innovation in the near term. But there is equally little doubt that before the true value of the human genome can be unlocked, there will need to be innovation in the processing firepower that can be brought to bear on the problem.