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Eric J. Perkins

Eric received his PhD in Genetics & Molecular Biology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and did his post-doctoral research at Harvard. He is a Senior Scientist with Addgene and has worked at the repository since 2008. He loves that Addgene has given him the opportunity to talk with scientists all over the world, about all aspects of biology, every day.

Recent Posts

Plasmids 101: Aptamer Fluorophores

Posted by Eric J. Perkins on Apr 11, 2017 10:30:00 AM

What is an Aptamer?

Nearly 30 years ago, two independent groups, led by Jack Szostak and Larry Gold, developed methods for selecting and amplifying RNA sequences that could bind very specifically to target molecules. Using a technique called systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX), some 1010 oligonucleotides could be screened for their affinity to a wide range of non-nucleotide targets. These RNA molecules, which could bind their targets with high specificity and affinity, were eventually called aptamers, from the Latin aptus, meaning “to fit”. SELEX could be used to classify DNA aptamers as well, and over the course of the next two decades, these nucleotide-based ligand binders would prove to be highly adaptable tools.

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Topics: Plasmids 101, Fluorescent Proteins

Four Factors that Differentiate the Stem Cell Field

Posted by Eric J. Perkins on Sep 28, 2016 10:35:00 AM

When our Director of Biology, Lianna Swanson, suggested that I might be able to attend the 10 Years of iPSCs Symposium earlier this year, I jumped at the chance. Here was an opportunity to see Shinya Yamanaka celebrate the tenth anniversary of his landmark Cell paper showing that it was possible to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) capable of forming nearly all cell types in the body from otherwise terminally differentiated cells simply by expressing four proteins Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and cMyc (the so called OSKM factors). As the Yamanaka lab's primary Addgene contact for many years, I've been looking forward to seeing how the sharing of his OSKM factors have affected the stem cell community – a community largely created due to Yamanaka’s seminal work.

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Topics: Stem Cells

Tips for Technical Support Calls

Posted by Eric J. Perkins on Sep 20, 2016 10:39:02 AM

I’ve answered hundreds of phone calls and thousands of customer service emails in my six years as a senior scientist at Addgene. Having spent that long in customer service, I've daydreamed about the ideal customer service interaction - one that gives our customers the most utility in the least amount of time. Though I now spend far less time answering help emails and phone calls, I feel compelled to share my years of accumulated wisdom so that you, the customer, can get the most out of your email or phone call. Though my experience is based solely on my time at Addgene, I’m confident that these tips and tricks will apply to any biology-related customer support interaction.

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Topics: Inside Addgene, Lab Tips

Addgene @ Keystone: Thoughts on Precision Genome Engineering and Synbio

Posted by Eric J. Perkins on Jan 15, 2015 8:50:00 AM

It's been about 14 years since I last attended a Keystone Meeting – far too long. Holding these meetings in relatively isolated resorts creates a sense of comradery with fellow attendees from the moment you arrive. Getting off the plane in Bozeman Sunday night, it was easy to spot meeting participants. They were the ones holding poster tubes (or as our baffled flight attendant called them, "long, skinny things") and generally exuding a very-tired-but-very-excited attitude. Riding up to the resort in the shuttle, our driver regaled us with tales of back country skiing, fly fishing, and local grizzly bear attacks. He described one such recent attack as "hilarious". Welcome to Montana!

Though sadly I will not be attending the entire meeting, Monday's talks alone were worth the trip. Dr. Dana Carroll's excellent keynote address was the first of 19 talks given over the course of the day. His talk, which focused on the history of genome engineering from ZFNs through TALENs and CRISPR-Cas nucleases, provided important context for the rest of the day. He was followed by three of the biggest names in the CRISPR-Cas9 field – Jennifer Doudna, Feng Zhang, and Keith Joung. All Addgene depositors! Addgene was mentioned specifically in Dr. Zhang's introduction. His willingness to share reagents so freely with the academic community has clearly made a huge impact on this field.

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Topics: Genome Engineering, Scientific Sharing, Synthetic Biology, CRISPR

Plasmids 101: Protein tags

Posted by Eric J. Perkins on Dec 11, 2014 11:26:00 AM

Protein tags are usually smallish peptides incorporated into a translated protein. As depicted in the accompanying cartoon, they have a multitude of uses including (but not limited to) purification, detection, solubilization, localization, or protease protection. Thus far Plasmids 101 has covered GFP and its related fluorescent proteins, which are sometimes used as tags for detection; however, those are just one (admittedly large) class of common fusion protein tags. Biochemists and molecular biologists who need to overexpress and purify proteins can face any number of technical challenges depending on their protein of interest. After several decades of trying to address these challenges, researchers have amassed a considerable molecular tool box of tags and fusion proteins to aid in the expression and purification of recombinant proteins.

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Topics: Plasmid Elements, Plasmids 101

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