AMPorterfield

I'm a writer, editor, and communications consultant, specializing in biotech, life sciences and healthcare. I've worked for the Salk Institute, Life Technologies, Amgen, Pfizer, academic institutions, startups, non-profits and consulting firms. I've got a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a MS in biotech management from the University of Maryland.

Articles by AMPorterfield:

Do Bad Genes Beget Disease? Hey, Not So Fast!

The purpose of genetic testing is to find altered genes that could cause disease. Consequently, people could be treated, or prospective parents can make decisions about having children. However, scientists are finding that having a gene which causes disease doesn’t necessarily cause that disease! We are all mutants Researchers at Cambridge and Cardiff universities found that a…

07 Feb 2013 Genomics & Epigenetics

Do Your Homework to Find Good Reference Genes

Comparing and measuring gene expression is certainly an integral part of research—gene expression patterns continue to show us how different cell networks are regulated, and point to new biological pathways and possible treatments for disease. But one crucial part of gene expression lies in making sure that differences in gene expression are due to gene…

28 Jan 2013 PCR, qPCR and qRT-PCR

We Learn a Wee Bit More about Proteins—from Wii

About thirteen years ago, a group of science journalists gathered in a darkened lab at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The lights went off, and the participants took turns donning a clunky helmet with darkened visor. By moving the right thumb, each helmet-wearing reporter suddenly was whisked down the middle of protein ribbon, twisted through…

19 Dec 2012 Fun Stuff

NHS uses NGS to combat MRSA!

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) persistently plagues hospitals worldwide. Until now, hospital (or healthcare) MRSA (HA-MRSA) was of a different lineage from MRSA found in the community. Since HA-MRSA could not survive in a non-hospital setting, this made things rather convenient. Testing for HA-MRSA was routine and the isolates, in particular one called ST22, could easily…

22 Nov 2012 Genomics & Epigenetics

Who Found the First Plasmid?

Plasmids—the loops of DNA in bacteria that form the original foundation of biotechnology—were being discovered constantly in the 1940s and 1950s. The only problem was, they were called everything but. Series of scientists found bacteriophages and other strange loops of somatic DNA, and gave them a series of names, including: pangenes, bioblasts, plasmagenes, plastogenes, choncriogenes,…

09 Nov 2012 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

Genomes on cell phones- there’s no app for that…yet!

A long, long time ago- before the human genome sequence was announced, a cancer specialist friend wrote a whimsical essay in a university newsletter. He predicted that future patients would drive to a clinical data center, plug a flash drive into a computer and have their genomes scanned for current and potential disease. The reaction…

08 Nov 2012 Genomics & Epigenetics

You’re Closer to the Clinic Than You Think: NGS and Clinical Trials

A decade or so ago, the phrase ‘translational research’ began making its rounds through laboratories- it was supposed to take molecular biology results and apply them directly to patients. It brought about things like gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and so forth. You get the idea- valuable research, but not immediately injectable. Valuable and cheap…

18 Oct 2012 Genomics & Epigenetics

Book Review: Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott

Finishing Flatland, a novella published by British mathematician and teacher Edwin Abbott a good 20 years before Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and the growth of quantum mechanics, leaves the reader wondering what Abbott could possibly have known about these later figures and events. But the book’s very existence underscores just how fundamental those 20th…

10 Sep 2012 Inspiring & Thought Provoking

How the Ion Torrent Sequencer works

Just before Life Technologies purchased the start-up company Ion Torrent, the fledgling company was dealing with a torrent of another kind—worldwide media interest in its new sequencing technology, which promised to bring the price of next-generation, massively parallel sequencing down to $1,000 per run. Since that dramatic announcement in the summer of 2011, Life Technologies…

06 Sep 2012 Genomics & Epigenetics

How to Save Our Science—a Case Study

Mentioning the abbreviation “GMO” yields one of two reactions: fascination with the biotechnology of creating food and other organisms that thrive despite pests or bad weather, or horror at the idea of creating an unknown, dangerous monster in the laboratory. Rothamsted Research, in Harpenden, England, was yet another biotechnology lab faced with the latter reaction…

27 Aug 2012 Inspiring & Thought Provoking