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John Wooley is Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and Professor of Chemistry-Biochemistry and of Pharmacology at the University of California San Diego. Wooley is a leader in the young field of metagenomics: the science of gathering vast numbers of genes from the oceans, soils, air, and the human body.
A generation ago biologist knew the sequences of a few thousand genes. Since then that figure has jumped to several million genes and it's only going to continue to leap higher in years to come. This wealth of data is allowing scientists to get answers to fundamental questions they rarely even asked a generation ago.
They're starting to understand how thousands of species of microbes coexist in our bodies. They're investigating how hundreds of genes work together inside a single cell and they're starting to get a vision of the full diversity of the billions of proteins that life produces, what scientists sometimes call the protein universe.
John Wooley has been at the center of this revolution, investigating some of these new questions and leading pioneering projects such as CAMERA, the Community Cyberinfrastructure for Advanced Marine Microbial Ecology Research and Analysis, to organize the unprecedented amount of data that scientists have at their disposal so that they can master that data rather than drown in it.
In this episode I spoke to Wooley about how metagenomics has revolutionized research on everything from marine ecology to human health, and how he and his colleagues cope with an influx of data on millions of new genes.
Download: mp3 (32.44 min | 22.7 megs)
photo for show art (right) provided by calit2