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Nov 1, 2013 (Vol. 33, No. 19)

PCR @ 30: From Prize Winner to Life Saver

  • The story of PCR does not begin with Kary Mullis’ insightful drive in 1983 nor does it end with Mullis’ 1993 Nobel Prize. PCR’s journey has long been a collaborative one, starting with Gobind Khorana who many believe laid out the theory for PCR in a seminal paper in the early 1970s. After Mullis’ eureka moment in 1983, the concept of PCR was refined by scientists at Cetus, including Stephen Scharf, Ph.D., now senior staff scientist at Life Technologies. GEN’s PCR@30 begins with Dr. Scharf’s account of PCR’s early years and the challenge of converting the PCR invention to practice.

    Our next contributor, Mikael Kubista, Ph.D., CEO and founder of TATAA Biocenter, picks up where Dr. Scharf leaves off, introducing offshoots like qPCR, which he had a hand in developing, and stressing the importance of continual improvement if qPCR is to reach its full potential.

    Ulf Landegren, Ph.D., professor at Uppsala University, and also co-founder of Parallele Bioscience, Olink Bioscience, and Qlinea, describes cutting-edge applications as well as alternatives, limitations, and future directions for PCR technology. He also acknowledges there are situations where PCR might not represent the ultimate solution.

    One of those problematic areas right now is point of care, but in our final article in this section, Jonathan O’Halloran, Ph.D., CSO at QuantuMDx, imagines a day when PCR is freed from its ties to expensive equipment and specialized technicians. Dr. O’Halloran believes that in the not-too-distant future, PCR will be simplified, devices made smaller, and diagnostics moved from the lab to point of care.

    When this happens, Kary Mullis will possess more than the passing glory of a faded rock star—his peak lasted just a few months after he won the Nobel Prize—he will enjoy the status of a rock legend, albeit one who played in a very large band.



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