The next big thing

Thursday, May 15th, 2008 by hinrich

At work I am responsible for an Affymetrix microarray platform. Over the years I have seen many new chip designs and molecular biology applications appear for this platform. Of course, one major driver are the technological possibilities provided by e.g. miniaturization, increase in computing power, etc. As new molecular biology technologies emerge, biotechnology companies and scientists develop new applications for these technologies. Once there is a large enough crowd that follows, the technology becomes viable and there is time to mature the application / optimize the reagents. However, more and more new technologies initially lack suitable analysis algorithms - partially because they lack data from "real world" examples or are optimized on artificial experiments that do not resemble settings that would be used when applying the technology to answer a biological question. By the time scientists involved in developing data analysis approaches have caught up and one knows the advantages and the limitations of a given technology, the technology crowd has moved on to the next big thing. What is it these days? Tiling arrays for annotation-free, genome-wide transcript discovery? Copy number analysis? MicroRNAs? Deep sequencing? The danger is not only that such novel technologies get over-hyped initially, but also that there is insufficient support for a matured technology later as the next big thing promises technologically so much more...

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