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Years Of Human Genome Data Lost In UCSC Fire 44

dsavitsk links to a New York Times article which reports that several years of data related to the human genome project have been lost in a fire at the University of California at Santa Cruz, seemingly with no backup.
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Years Of Human Genome Data Lost In UCSC Fire

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  • by karrde ( 853 ) on Monday January 14, 2002 @02:08PM (#2837081) Homepage Journal
    The data was not what was lost. It's the actuall genetic strains that have been cultivating over the past 14 years. The lead of the project says that it may take that long to re-generate the same strains...
    • ...which seem to be strains of yeast. Judging from the lab's page [ucsc.edu], the connection to the Human Genome Project seems pretty tenuous. It's another yeast genomics lab, with a greater than usual interest in surfing judging by their web cams. I feel bad for them, but this sort of thing does happen -- I lost some samples in the Northridge earthquake and the Allison flooding caused catastrophic damage to the mouse research at UT.

      The original story was off base enough, but Slashdot managed to blow it far more out of proportion. Yes, the human genome sequence is backed up, securely and globally.

    • So people, don't forgett to backup your genes.
      • So people, don't forgett to backup your genes.

        Many readers here can't. Creating a gene backup requires the assistance of a girlfriend/wife.

        • Many readers here can't. Creating a gene backup requires the assistance of a girlfriend/wife.

          That's not a backup, thats a new and different creation which includes only 50% of your genes and 50% of your partners genes, mixed together somewhat randomly (or at least non-predictably by current technologies). Congress and our illustrious president, at the behest of vocal Luddites on both the extreme left and extreme right whose sole unifying characteristic is their complete lack of understanding of the technology, its underlying science, and its implications, are busy making the only known process of backing up one's genes illegal: that of cloning.
  • by gus goose ( 306978 ) on Monday January 14, 2002 @02:11PM (#2837096) Journal
    Why must we assume that what was lost was data/computers.

    From my take on the article, it was physical strands of DNA / biological matter which was lost.

  • First rule of database management: back up your data.

    I find it amazing that this data would not be backed up. Not to jump to conclusions or anything, but I bet this has to do with some cost cutting measure since it would be expensive to back up such a large amount of data. I guess now we get to see some middle management type sweat because his knuckleheaded decision cost years of research.

    Maybe it's for the best though, god only knows what corporations would do after they got this information. After them genome is all figured out, it would be a race to profit, no matter who was hurt. And don't think for a minute this wouldn't be used for all the wrong reasons.
  • by Iamthefallen ( 523816 ) <Gmail name: Iamthefallen> on Monday January 14, 2002 @02:15PM (#2837120) Homepage Journal

    Chief Hernandez said the building did not have a sprinkler system because it was built in 1987, before fire codes required one.

    Well if it wasn't required, then it wasn't needed really right? Besides, I hear lab equipment and 14 years of research is very cheap these days, much cheaper than decent fire-prevention measures...

  • The Article (Score:2, Informative)

    by bihoy ( 100694 )
    January 13, 2002
    Years of Data Lost in Fire at University

    [S] ANTA CRUZ, Calif., Jan. 12 (AP) -- A fire tore through university laboratories here and destroyed genetic research that took years to develop, officials said today.

    The fire began early Friday and destroyed the top floor of a laboratory at the University of California at Santa Cruz. It later flared up twice more and destroyed the interior of a second laboratory, said Charles Hernandez, the university's fire chief.

    Prof. Manuel Ares Jr., chairman of the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Department, said, "It's a devastating situation," and added, "I don't know how far it has set me back."

    He said many of the genetic strains in his laboratory had taken 14 years to develop and could take that long to replace. His work was related to the Human Genome Project, a national effort to identify the tens of thousands of genes in human DNA.

    Chief Hernandez said the building did not have a sprinkler system because it was built in 1987, before fire codes required one.

    The cause
  • Backups (Score:4, Insightful)

    by leastsquares ( 39359 ) on Monday January 14, 2002 @02:24PM (#2837189) Homepage
    The fire probably didn't destroy much (or any) electronic data. But the genetic strains should have been "backed up" just as any of us know that we should backup our data.

    My girlfriend's previous employment was in a lab that appears similar to this blackened one. They carried out research using cell lines with genetic traits that had taken years to develop. These cells can generally be frozen for later use, but since the freezer is in the same building a fire could destroy that too. So they donated cell-lines to other research groups, on the condition that they stored a portion of the sample.

    Accidents happen. Data-loss doesn't need to.
  • Who stands to gain the most by a setback in the Human Genome Project? I'm not up on all the details but aren't there several corporations that are trying to "finish" first so they can patent the data before it is released into the public domain? If this is the case then it would be in best interest to slow down the competition...

    Perhaps someone can shed some light on this?

    Just an idea.
    • Don't rule out:

      1) Republicans, who fear we may end up finding the "Liberal Democrat" gene.

      2) Fundimentalist Christians, who believe we shouldn't learn anything which may give us insight into the workings of God.

      3) Democrats, who fear we may find the "can see right through your lies" gene

      4) Hardcore, 14 year old Linux Advocates, for fear they may find a gene which will make everyone as 133t as said advocates.
    • Who stands to gain the most by a setback in the Human Genome Project?

      God. He get's to keep the insipid sourcecode for these pesky humans closed for a few more years.

      Didn't his patent expire yet?
  • Have they narrowed down the cause yet? It's a suspicious sort of target - kind of like a fire at an abortion clinic...

    And if they lost important strains it's their own dang fault. Who doesn't have a backup location for storage of something so valuable? I know - this could be their way of cashing in on research that wasn't going anywhere (assuming adequate insurance).

    Don't complain - paranoia is par for the course here.

  • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Monday January 14, 2002 @03:02PM (#2837455) Homepage Journal
    ...and I'll sell it to them for $10 million.

    int main( ) {
    for int i = 0 to MAX_BASES_NEEDED do
    switch ( rand( 4 ) ) do
    case 0
    print A
    case 1
    print C
    case 2
    print T
    case 3
    print G

    return 0

    Let me just rattle on a bit to try to get past the lameness filter. It seems to me, if the lameness filter really worked, Slashdot might be pretty hungry for comments. I'm not saying I don't make a lot of lameness myself, but calling something like this a "lameness" filter would be like checking if someone is breathing and calling it an intelligence test.

    Furthermore, how could a site for "nerds" be set up to filter out a small snippet of source code. Hello! Earth to /.

    Anyhow, I'm hoping that if I spew enough lame but not-lame-looking text I can actually post, what I thought was an amusing joke, but /. might thwart my budding comedy career.

    In desperation I have now changed my nicely formatted C++ code to pseudo-code.
  • There are as many backups as there are strands of hair on the researchers head (since every strand is a backup). The only problem is the backups are a bit hard to read.
  • Some more details... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alfredw ( 318652 ) <alf@freeaCHICAGOlf.com minus city> on Monday January 14, 2002 @11:26PM (#2839904) Homepage
    ... on the research, not the fire. If you look at the Professor's homepage [ucsc.edu], you can see that he was working on:

    Our work centers on the mechanisms and regulation of splicing. Splicing is required to remove intron sequences from pre-mRNA and create coding sequences for translation. Yeast has been our organism of choice for these studies because it offers simple, powerful genetic approaches and has a splicing machinery similar to that in mammalian cells. In addition the yeast genome is completely sequenced, the location of nearly every intron is known and genes for most splicing factors have been identified. This provides unique advantages for the study of splicing.

    Kinda puts some perspective on what was lost as opposed to "data related to the Human Genome Project."
  • Data lost? Did you read the article? No, you didn't. Hang your head in shame! =)

    p.s. We'll settle for you going away and never coming back. =)
  • ::sniff sniff:: Smells like a government coverup to me... ever seen the X-Files?? ...then you know what I mean...

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll