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.
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.
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.
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.