Could pro sports lead us to wellness?

Comment From Bill
St. Louis is being hindered in the stretch drive by some kind of GI bug passing through (so to speak) the team. Reports have as many as 15 guys down with it at once. That seems a lot, but given the way a baseball clubhouse works, my question is why don’t we see more of that? Answering that baseball players are fanatically interested in sanitation and hygiene ain’t gonna cut it, I don’t think…

Dave Cameron: They have access to a lot of drugs.

–comment from a chat at Fangraphs, September 24, 2014

So this comment caught my eye. Ever since I began following sites like and, and reading things like Moneyball, I’ve found myself thinking about efficiency and unappreciated or unexplored resources in different situations.

I realize this was a throwaway line in a baseball chat. But it piqued my interest because it seems to point out something that’s maybe underappreciated and understudied about how sports teams go about their business–specifically, the kinds of things they do to keep their athletes healthy.

My question is, does this represent a potential source of “Found Research” data that could help the rest of us reach wellness? Continue reading


Genetic counseling at Illumina

All opinions of the interviewer are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

Illumina is the industry leader in high-throughput sequencing platforms and over the past decade has employed a fascinating mix of innovation, creativity in approach, community engagement and aggressive exploration into different business areas. I recently had the opportunity to interview Erica Ramos, who works as a clinical genomics specialist and certified genetic counselor in the professional services group within Illumina’s CLIA lab, about Illumina and genetic counseling.

Kyle Serikawa:  Can you describe what Illumina is doing in the field of genetic counseling? That is, are you creating a genetic counseling service, or advocating an increase in training of genetic counselors, or creating materials to facilitate counseling?

Erica Ramos: So Illumina has four full time genetic counselors as part of their services group. We don’t provide direct services to patients; Illumina’s model is to provide support to the providers, the physicians. We support what’s being done in the genetics core at Illumina. As for training, we offer opportunities for that. Every year we welcome a second year student in genetic counseling for a 10 week, part time rotation. We’ve done about 5 of those so far. It’s an opportunity for those students to see how genetic counseling skills can be applied to a non-clinical setting. We see the internships as a way to engage these people who will go on to become genetic counselors. Illumina is also a very active in the genetics community, including membership in the American College of Medical Genetics and other organizations.

KS: Given the current landscape of, for example, exome and whole-genome sequencing, it seems like genetic literacy will become an increasingly important skill—both for understanding how genetic variants can be interpreted and also how genetic information will be communicated. How is Illumina thinking about educational needs in genetics?

ER: The genetics community as a whole is concerned about the need for wider understanding of genetics to help inform medical practice. From Illumina’s standpoint, one of the things we can do is to support the internships I’ve described as a way to provide exposure to non-clinical roles for genetic counselors, which broadens the potential market. Also, we’re providing a training option that maybe not all academic programs can support. At the same time, the universities themselves can see the developing need, and through supply and demand we hope to see an increase in the number of genetic counselors being trained.

There is also need for the education and updating of other professions. Physicians, nurse practitioners and others. Illumina has put on the “Understand Your Genome” symposia to work with providers who don’t currently have as deep an understanding as they would like.

KS: How do you see genetic counseling as synergizing with Illumina’s business interests? Continue reading

What would you want to do with genome sequence data?

All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk

In the same issue of Nature that reported the HeLa sequence and the NIH agreement, Martin Bobrow of the University of Cambridge wrote a column discussing how we as a society choose to balance individual privacy and public good that arises from making data gathered from private samples public.

We are entering a strikingly different period of biological and biomedical research, as a number of different areas of research and technology are reaching a critical point of cross-fertilization.  Moore’s law has resulted in computers of amazing power that can analyze really stupendous amounts of data.  I was at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry recently, and in one of their displays they showed a 1980 IBM PC, and while showing it to my son, I pulled out my smartphone and told him that my phone today is just as powerful as that computer was.  Of course, I was wrong.  My phone is actually about 2.5 orders of magnitude more powerful than that PC. Continue reading

What does the Hela genome agreement imply for consent and genome data usage?

All opinions my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

A fair amount of reporting (for example here, here and here) has gone into the recent news that the NIH and the descendants of Henrietta Lacks have reached an agreement about the conditions under which the genome sequence of the HeLa cell line will be shared.  The basic parameters are that researchers wanting access to the data will need to apply for permission, the application committee will include members of the Lacks family, any publications will acknowledge the contribution of the Henrietta Lacks, and future genome sequences will be submitted to dbGAP.

This is a generally welcome development, and in no small part due to the work of Rebecca Skloot.  Her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks provided the impetus to the current developments by popularizing the story of Ms. Lacks and the cell line derived from her tissues.  However, this agreement also can be seen as a precedent of sorts, and the future implications for the ethics of consent, genetic information sharing and genomic research are unclear.

Whose genome is it, anyway?

In Pasco Phronesis, David Bruggeman penned a post on some of the possible implications.  He discusses one of the key elements of genetic consent that I generally haven’t seen elaborated on much in the current literature: familial consent and exposure.   To what extent do those who share part of a sequenced genome have a say in the granting and rescinding of consent for the usage of genetic information?   Continue reading