The machine invented by Jonathan Rothberg

By José Alberto Gaytán García*

On page 68 of Forbes magazine’s of January 17, 2011, appears an article entitled “Gene Machine”, which describes the details of how Jonathan Rothberg, an expert in genomic sequencing, invented a formidable machine called “Personal Genome Machine” (PMG), for its acronym in English. This machine the size of a normal printer is a powerful desktop decoder capable of sequencing or reading in less than two hours 10 million letters of human DNA. The PMG sells for $50,000; it is twenty times cheaper than the current slow, bulky and not very reliable equipment that exists in the great business of genetic sequencing. Jonathan Rothberg has made it possible so that hospitals, private clinics, research centers, universities and any person can use one of these technological marvels. From now on, it will be normal to store in a folder the data of the genetic code of the entire family on a standard USB memory, CD or a cellular. This information will be vital for our doctor to diagnose and prescribe the exact medicine that each of us will need to heal ourselves from the next disease that attacks us.

the Machine invented by Jonathan Rothberg

In this sense, the future reached us because the PGM realized the dream desired by medical science of one day applying personalized medicine. Now, the genetic information provided by this machine will be the difference between life and death in the case of cancer and serious illnesses that until now have no treatment based on our genetic code. Indeed, modern medicine is based on the experience to diagnose and treat illnesses. That is to say that our doctors prescribe the same medicine to all people suffering from the same illness and not based on the genetic information of each person.

According to Forbes, the impact of this technological innovation will be greater than the impact that caused the release of personal computers. Forbes estimates that the PGM will develop a market of 100 billion dollars a year, as their applications will revolutionize the sectors of health, food, energy and products for individual consumption.

Jonathan Rothberg was born in New Haven, Connecticut, is 47 years old, did a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, a doctorate in biology at Yale University, is the owner four companies of biotechnology and genetics: CuraGen, 454 Life Sciences, Ion Torrent and Rain Dance Technologies. This admirable scientist turned multimillionaire (in dollars) with his PGM machine, to achieve that, he investigated the secrets of chromosomes and the biochemical language of DNA for twenty years; when he deciphered these secrets, Rothberg sought the right way to transfer this genetic language into binary language that computers use or understand, for this, he developed the “Ion Torrent Chip”, a powerful semiconductor which made the connection possible between the two worlds that Rothberg studied, the genetic and binary forms, with that valuable information he invented and patented the PGM machine.

The success reached by this great scientist, thrills and arouses admiration and leads us to dream in a Mexico where there exists a state policy that supports scientific research above all, when that becomes a reality, the last names of the researchers that will amaze the world of science will be Gonzalez, Hernandez, Garcia, Sosa and Duran, etc.

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José Alberto Gaytan
José Alberto Gaytan
José Alberto Gaytán García ha escrito artículos y ensayos de corte académico en diarios y revistas de México y de los Estados Unidos; ha participado en importantes proyectos académicos e impartido conferencias sobre temas de historia, tecnología y educación en el marco de las relaciones entre México y los Estados Unidos, tema en el cual realizó sus estudios de doctorado en The Graduate School of Internacional Studies de la Universidad de Miami.

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