Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stand-in Sugar Daddy Duty

My management team bankrolled a locally-produced documentary about insuring the safety of the food supply, and I am here on campus for the reception and viewing the film.  It was lovely.  I got quite shiny suit-sleeves rubbing elbows with the deans and directors who came around to thank my company for the funding.  I met the producers, and sat with my professors and A's charming and well-behaved young daughters.  I was asked to speak briefly, and I told our story about how we transitioned from making test-and-measurement boxes to creating a food team to apply those solutions for assuring the security of the food produced by local agriculture.  While hiring his team, P's father contracted food poisoning and died within a few days, so food safety is not only a company pursuit, but an up-close-and-personal priority for our team. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

fast forward a year later

Last spring one of the terrible cluster of tornadoes that hit Missouri hit STL, the airport a few miles from my childhood home (where a parking garage now resides)    I watched the big glass arches of the terminal go up as a kid in early elementary school. Last time I was here There was still a LOT of plywood. Now it is light and airy again with new glass. Even better are the new corridors to the gates. Gone are the low, dark suspended ceilings that were oppressively close to my head. The support struts are opened up and they and the corrugated metal roof are painted cream. A false ceiling of big pans of glowing lights give a sense of openness. What an improvement!

P.s. A clue to the nature of this blue collar city is in the news shop. One rack of paperback books, 4 racks of magazines, and tens of racks of merchandise. One suspects the literacy rate, scientific or otherwise, is less than 29 percent.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Alphabet soup and the Pathogen Genome Project

Six months ago there was a meeting of 25 scientists in Brussels. This week there has been a meeting of 100 scientists to discuss accumulation of the various sequencing outputs into various centers. Most of these data repositories are known by a collection of initials and are part of some agency of some government somewhere.
From left:  Paul, Food Team Manager, Agilent Technologies; Eric Brown, Division Director, Microbiology, US FDA; Steve Musser, Director, Office of Regulatory Science, US FDA; Marc Allard, Microbiologist, US FDA; Bart Weimer, Professor and Director, Pathogen Genome Center; Steve Royce, Manager, Americas Food team, Suf Al-Khaldi, Research Scientist and Food Outbreak Investigator @ US-FDA, US FDA, and me.

PZ stood before the first break and announced U CA Davis is starting an initiative to collect 100,000 cultures AND genomes of pathogens over the next few years, and that these would be publicly available.  There was silence followed by a smattering of applause. Later we figured out this was the length of time for a collective "Oh #*!!  That means my 10,000 cultures I was going to build the rest of my career on have gone the way of the buggywhip" realization.

This is Big, my friends, BIG. This changes the game in place since the days of Louie Pasteur. More in another post.