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“Zone in with Zon”—Gene Patents, Louis XVI, Sasquatch, and Jurassic Beer

Dr. Gerald Zon’s latest “Zone in with Zon” blog post, dated November 18, 2013, and published by TriLink BioTechnologies of San Diego, departs from Dr. Zon’s usuaul thematic approach and covers a wide variety of interesting topics only loosely linked by involving sequencing in some fashion. In this wide-ranging blog, Dr. Zon moves from a discussion of gene patenting based on an October 8, 2013 provocative article in Nature Biotechnology (http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v31/n10/full/nbt.2703.html) by Kevin McKernan, co-founder and CSO of Courtagen Life Sciences, Inc., et al., to a the use of DNA testing to identify a putative blood sample from French King Louis XVI executed during the French revolution and to verify the results by testing tissue from the preserved heart of his presumptive son. Then, at the risk of jeopardizing any possible future Nobel Prize consideration, Dr. Zon even devotes a few paragraphs to the Sasquatch Genome Project and separate DNA studies on the “Abominable Snowman” by famed geneticist Dr. Bryan Sykes. Finally, as if to subtly imply the origin of these unusual musings, he ends with a discussion of “Jurassic Beer.” Apparently, Cano & Borucki reported in Science in 1995 that they had extracted, revived, cultured and identified bacterial spores from the abdominal contents of extinct Proplebeia dominicana bees. The bees had been preserved in 25- to 40-million-year-old amber. Dr. Zon says that Dr. Cano later filed a patent application for manufacturing a fermented beverage (e.g., beer) from a novel yeast strain recovered and cultured from a 44-million-year-old piece of amber. Dr. Cano now co-owns Fossil Fuel Brewing Co., which is utilizing ancient yeast strains to brew beer. Dr. Zon does issue one caveat. Apparently, subsequent attempts to replicate the 1995 Science findings of Cano & Borucki have failed and called the original results into question. However, Dr. Zon cites a comment by Dr. John Thompson, former Senior Director of Genomic Research at Helicos BioSciences, on these replicative efforts, suggesting that they themselves were not adequate: “I have no doubt that this work was carefully done and I have no reason to doubt the results. The conclusions, however, are over-reaching. Having no DNA that is sequenceable by 454 (which requires amplification and relatively long, intact, unmodified DNA) is not at all the same as having no DNA. There are examples of DNA that cannot be sequenced by 454 but can be detected by single-molecule methods. A proper study of DNA survivability in amber will require the most sensitive assays and not just the most accessible. Is it likely that Jurassic-era DNA has survived in amber? No, but this work does not prove it.” Dr. Zon concurred with Dr. Thompson’s comment. Dr. Zon is an eminent nucleic acid chemist and Director of Business Development at TriLink BioTechnologies in San Diego, California. The entirety of Dr. Zon’s blog can be viewed at the link below. [Zon blog post]