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The Epigenome Could be More Actionable Than the Genome, says Bret Barnes, Illumina

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"The Epigenome Could be More Actionable Than the Genome, says Bret Barnes, Illumina"

Bret Barnes has spent his career at Illumina developing the DNA methylation Infinium arrays that have become the workhorse of epigenomic studies around the world.

Barnes says he was torn as a young person between biochemistry and computer science, and he fortuitously ended up at UC Santa Cruz when they launched the first bioinformatics degree. Early on, he was interested in protein structure prediction. “There are 20 amino acids,” he said. Way more exciting than DNA with only four bases." At the time of the Solexa acquisition, Illumina recruited Bret to do bioinformatics work on DNA methylation.

“Methylated cystine is considered the fifth base. So five not four — a little better,” he says. He jumped on board Illumina’s team. “If the king and queen of DNA methylation at Illumina were Kevin Gunderson and Marina Bibikova, then you could think of me as the prince, or maybe the joker,” he admits.

In this podcast, Mendelspod’s Theral Timpson speaks to Bret Barnes from Illumina about the current state of epigenomics, the applications Barnes sees for the actionable epigenome, and how he sees the field developing.


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