Finding the Next Generation of Antibiotics

Mention the word penicillin and it conjures up images of mold growing on bacterial culture plates and Dr. Alexander Fleming observing that the mold had killed the surrounding bacteria, ushering in the age of antibiotics. Bacterial infections could easily be treated with penicillin or any one of the bewildering array of new antibiotics continually being discovered. The result of using these antimicrobial drugs: numerous lives were saved and human health improved. However, bacteria are clever organisms and as quickly as humans developed an antibiotic to treat infection, the microbes would find a way around the bacteriostatic or bacteriocidal compound. It is a scary world where antibiotics are rendered impotent and fewer and fewer weapons are left in the arsenal to treat multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and hospital-acquired drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria (e.g., Acinetobacter baumannii). Continue reading “Finding the Next Generation of Antibiotics”

Wolfram|Alpha: The World’s Knowledge, Computed

Friday, May 15th, 2009. 11 days ago. The 135th day of 2009, in the 20th week. 36.71% of 2009 had elapsed, and 63.29% remained.

Depending on where you keep your ears tuned on the internet, it may have passed as just another nascent weekend, or you may have been waiting for this day for quite some time – not because it was the 97th weekday of 2009, but because of the launch of Wolfram|Alpha.

I can’t claim the hot level of anticipation that others would – I’d heard the name thrown around on tech blogs and treated with a certain reverence. But starting about two weeks ago, I got feverish emails and IMs from various net.friends.

“Wolfram Alpha launches on Friday.”

“Did you hear about the launch?”

“Check out this screencast NOW.”

Anything subtitled “Computational Knowledge Engine” would normally earn ample mockery from my friends and I, but a few quick queries on the site should disarm all but the most eager attackers.

This is no mere search engine: compare this random string of letters – ACTTACAATG – and the difference in results between Google and Wolfram|Alpha.

There’s an entire section of examples of Life Sciences queries, including a Molecular Biology subsection.

This is less search than it is some kind of very fancy calculator. My hunch is that we’re only hearing the beginning of this tool.