I started this website more than a decade ago, when my book "The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It" (St. Martin's Press) was published. I'd been authoring life science textbooks for many years, but this was my first (and only) attempt at narrative non-fiction, telling the story of a boy who regained his eyesight in days thanks to gene therapy. The website gave me the chance to start a blog, Genetic Linkage. Public Library of Science (PLoS) quickly snatched it up and brought me on board, where my weekly blog DNA Science has appeared ever since. I re-post here.
Writing The Forever Fix catapulted me into mostly covering rare genetic diseases here – a long-standing interest – with an occasional foray into pop culture, entertainment, and politics. Meanwhile, I continued cranking out new editions of my college textbook Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, every three years. I'm working on the 14th edition now.
The focus of my blog, in any of its forms, changed abruptly in early January 2020. When I first heard about an unusual pneumonia in China, I knew instantly that this was no ordinary outbreak. I paid attention. Read all I could. Zoomed with experts. Interviewed people on the front lines to write news articles for Medscape. And I observed medical experts as well as the public having to suddenly learn about the genetics and evolution that drive the pandemic. The age of disinformation dawned.
So I wrote all I could. My posts dissected the architecture and behavior of SARS-CoV-2, looked at pandemics past and predicted what might happen, explained how variants arise, and how treatments work. I published one of the first explanations of how a vaccine would prevent illness, February 20, 2020's, "COVID-19 Vaccine Will Close in on the Spikes." My favorite post? "Sandy From the Mountains Dies, Leaving a Message to the Unvaxxed." I couldn't convince a friend to get a vaccine. My COVID articles with links are at the right.
Finally as the number of my COVID articles approached 100, my pace slowed. Burnout coincided with a winding down of the pandemic, as more of us developed hybrid immunity from infections and vaccines. Viral evolution is on our side too, with variants evolving that cause milder illness – but that, too, could change. Even our artificial intelligence can't stay ahead of this beast.
Now I'm in a period of transition, in terms of blogging, exhausted from COVID coverage yet bummed by the slow pace of gene therapy. My final chapter of The Forever Fix, predicting success spreading from rare to more common conditions, never came to pass. Gene therapy hasn't made much of a dent in the rare disease community, although clinical trials and wonderful family groups are still very much part of the picture.
So now my posts are diversifying, as I look for topics beyond both rare genetic diseases and COVID. Recent posts have covered a biotech way to make turmeric, review of a Jurassic Park movie, and the origin and genetics of doodle dogs. I rerun "17 Timepoints When a Human Life Might Begin" too often, whenever women's reproductive rights are threatened or taken away. It's time for politicians to learn some biology.
I hope you enjoy my posts. Please comment and send me ideas!