Sunday, July 27, 2014

Can genomics save a struggling town?

 Like many manufacturing centres across the United States, the town of Kannapolis in North Carolina took a massive hit to its economy when the textile mill around which the town revolved downed its shutters. This article describes Kannapolis's unlikely re-invention as a centre for genomics research, thanks to an elderly billionaire named David Murdock, who is a fervent believer in longevity expansion through better nutrition (Here's a fun profile of Murdock in the New York Times that takes the term "health nut" to a whole new level).

The article raises a lot of interesting questions - can the biotech industry really revive a faded mill town? And more importantly, do the residents have a chance of profiting from any diagnostic tests or other inventions developed by using their biological materials? Right now the answers seem to be "Maybe" and "No". What is also not clear to me are the reasons why the residents of Kannapolis would make good candidates for recruitment into a biobank - what kind of population are they representative of? Nonetheless, it's interesting to think of this as a glimpse into a "brave new economy", where the residents are now literally the lifeblood of their town.

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