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NCBI: Good Tax Dollars

May 1, 2012

We hear so much about government waste–it’s good now and then to see a place where American tax dollars are well spent. An undeniably great place is NCBI, the National Center for Biotechnology Information. All the publically known gene sequences–every published gene defect–lots of free books–DNA mining tools.

And all of this information is free. Not just free to Americans, but free to the known universe. Anyone with Wi-fi can tap in.

Take for example Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (sic). Despite the stilted name, OMIM is a truly democratic collection of every reported variant of any person on the planet. This site in effect transformed the human population into a genetic petri dish–like mutant E. coli, every possible mutation is out there. Search your favorite defect–blindness, hypoglycemia, developmental delay. Here’s one form of blindness, Leber congenital amaurosis–just one of hundreds of ways to go blind (and those are just the genetic ways). It makes you wonder how any of us could have developed normally, to have vision as good as we do.

  1. Jonathan Cole permalink
    May 1, 2012 6:42 pm

    With this database easily available, the aliens will probaby reduce the amount of probing they need to do.

    • May 2, 2012 8:31 am

      Yes, we abduct fewer than we used to. 🙂

  2. paws4thot permalink
    May 2, 2012 5:47 am

    And a little love for NASA who are still getting the same allocation (actual dollars, not percentage or inflation adjusted) as they were in 1963.

  3. May 2, 2012 1:44 pm

    A company I used to work for eventually placed their world leading genomic database at NCBI after they went bankrupt. It cost upwards of $50 million to create, and it is now available for free to data mine.

    • May 2, 2012 2:50 pm

      Is that TIGR by any chance? They gave much-needed competition back then.

      Private enterprise is a great thing, but NASA, NSF and NCBI fill essential missions that this country ought to be proud to support.

      • May 2, 2012 3:55 pm

        No, nothing so grandiose. The company was small, but it produced teh largest, most consistant and well-curated chemo-genomics database product. Very many compounds were tested on rats and the transcription deltas for a number of different tissues, e.g. liver, kidneys etc. were recorded. There was also a set of in vitro cell culture studies too.
        It was most impressive for its time, and AFAIK, there was no comparable competing product.


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