[Cytometry] Grand Challenges in Cytometry

J. Paul Robinson jpr at flowcyt.cyto.purdue.edu
Sun May 22 09:09:17 EDT 2011

Howard Shapiro is actually at the Congress despite his claim that he is 
staying in Boston!!! There is a piece of Howard Shapiro in every single 
person who works in the field of cytometry......the only thing that is 
missing is the backpack and the guitar....Howard, we really are missing 
you -enjoy your 50th college reunion.

On the issue of grand challenges....I have to say that yesterday I was 
totally and completely awed when I saw what Wolfgang Gohde proudly 
showed me at the Partec booth - a hand held 5kg battery operated CD4 
counter. I have desperately tried to do this now for several years as 
many of you know and as Howard mentioned below, it's not been a high 
priority for most companies.

My hat is off to Wolfgang. Frankly, this is in my opinion an incredible 
feat. Many said it could not be done, many said it should not be done. 
Fortunately Wolfgang does not seem to care what others say - he just did 
it. There is still a huge challenge and making many different low cost 
diagnostics is really important - but it may not be the most profitable 
- who knows.

For the TWEETers - follow my tweets during the congress...I will try to 
keep you up to date

Paul Robinson
Tweet - @cytometryman

On 5/20/2011 1:17 PM, Howard Shapiro wrote:
> Ladies and Gentlemen-
> Since I won't be at CYTO 2011 due to a longstanding prior commitment to the 50th Reunion of my Harvard class, I though I might give you something to talk about at the manufacturers' parties in Baltimore.
> These days it seems to be de rigeur to issue "Grand Challenges" to galvanize people into action on one issue or another; the Gates Foundation's program for global public health comes to mind, but the National Academy of Engineering, NIH, and other organizations have played a similar game.
> Some of the existing Grand Challenges programs, notably those related to cell-based diagnosis of infectious disease, touch on our field of interest and expertise, but it appears that many, if not most, of the people doing the work are more expert about other aspects of the proposed technology than they are about the cells.
> Niels Bohr defined an expert as someone who has made most of the mistakes that can be made in a narrow field. That is certainly what characterizes my expertise, and it pains me to see other people make mistakes that I and many of you learned to avoid years and even decades ago, especially given the death rate from HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, etc.
> One can easily divide the world into "haves" and "have nots." We, however, tend at first to think of those classes as representing those who do and do not have access to technologies such as cytometry. I submit that lack of access to information and expertise on cytometry represents as least as significant an obstacle to progress in cell-based infectious disease research and diagnosis as does lack of apparatus. Cytometry is mothers' milk to immunologists; many of them whose interest is primarily in clinical immunology don't show up at ISAC meetings nowadays. Many people who work on hematology analyzers, virtually all of which are flow cytometers, don't even go to the Clinical Cytometry meetings most of the time, since they have an International Society for Laboratory Hematology. There are flow cytometers in SubSaharan Africa and other resource-limited areas, and most of the people who use them for hematology and immunology know where to find the information they need to do their work.
> Notwithstanding the fact that there have been sessions on microbiology at ISAC meetings since the SAC days, and triennial meetings on single cell microbiology since 1999, the state of the art of microbial cytometry has remained relatively primitive, and information diffuses relatively slowly, probably because there are many fewer people involved and many fewer publications related to the subject than is the case for clinical immunology.
> Literature searches can easily find people who have already published on a subject such as malaria cytometry; they cannot, however, find people just getting started on work in that area, and those are the people most in need of access to information and expertise. The manufacturers and their representatives, however, know who and where the newbies are, as do the people who run core labs.
> It has never been easy to convince manufacturers to donate apparatus, or even to do freebie modifications to instruments already in place, for humanitarian reasons; they need to make money, and I accept that.
> There should not, however, be any reason why we can't find out who is doing what where in the critical areas related to global public health, and post that information in a central, neutral location (I can provide one via the Center for Microbial Cytometry; Paul Robinson might volunteer the Purdue site). And it doesn't cost that much, these days, to network groups of people by video. This would enable optimal use to be made of such resources as are available.  I hereby issue a Grand Challenge to the industry to join me (and other sympathetic parties) in this effort, which, since I have just used the word "parties," I should mention will only take a small fraction of the CYTO 2011 entertainment budgets.
> I have thought up some more specific Grand Challenges in Cytometry; they should be posted on http://www.shapirolab.com by some time next week. Stay tuned.
> Have a great time in Baltimore! I'll be there in spirit and possibly via mp3.
> -Howard

J. Paul Robinson
SVM Professor of Cytomics&  Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Director, Purdue University Cytometry Laboratories
Director, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Purdue Precollege Program
Past-President, International Society for Advancement of Cytometry

Purdue University Cytometry Laboratories
Bindley Bioscience Center
1203 West State Street
Discovery Park, Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2057
Ph (765) 494 0757; Fax (765) 494 0517
email: jpr at flowcyt.cyto.purdue.edu

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