What kind of thing is the genome?
Department of Philosophy, Exeter University, July 2006
Traditionally the genome is thought of variously as the CPU of the cell, or as some kind of molecular machine in which the genes encoded in the DNA are deployed to produce the phenotype or properties of the cell. However, the completion of the sequencing of the human genome suggests things are much more complicated. Read as pdf here
Issues in a SYSTEM approach to radiobiology
BfS, Munich, Germany November 2010
It has become very fashionable to believe that systems biology will rescue radiobiology from its present torpid state induced by the uncovering of genomic instability and the bystander effect in 1992, for which there are still no agreed mechanisms. But is systems biology the simple solution many believe it is and in any case what is meant by the term systems biology? These issues are addressed in this lecture the conclusion of which is that treating the cell as an open thermodynamic system could solve many problems. Read as a pdf here.
Only DNA, Really?
For most of the past 50 years biology has accepted the dogma that the information coded in the base sequence of genomic DNA, and only that, was the information required to produce the cellular phenotype from the genotype. This essay explores dome of the reasons why this cannot be the case and suggests an alternative. Read as a pdf here.
FP7 “NOTE” Workshop, Helsinki, Finland. June 2010
As someone with a long term interest in the processes that underlay genomic instability
and the bystander effect I have been interested in the European Commission’s NOTE
project. NOTE stands for “non-
A Life Writ on Water
This essay was written in 1993 shortly after I had joined WHO and was living in Rome. The project to sequence the human genome project had just started. I was highly sceptical that it would have the benefits so lavishly claimed by its advocates, some of whom were to benefit handsomely from the “economic” collateral, for example, in terms of lab equipment etc.. I compared to genome sequence to a telephone directory suggesting that the sequence would tell us as much about how the genome works as do a telephone directory tells us about how a telephone works. In 2001 with the completion of the project this turned out to be not a bad prediction. Read the pdf here.
Book Review: Radiation and Reason by Wade Allison
I was invited to review this book with Hooshang Nikjoo of the Karolinska by the Lancet.
We warned the editor that our review would be controversial but we were given the
The Independent Attractor Model for Cell Regulation
Balliol College, Oxford, UK November 2011
This is a seminar presented in the series “Conceptual Foundations in System biology” on 24 November. It gives a broad outline of the independent attractor model for cell regulation. Read as a pdf here