by Kirk Beebe

A lively discussion happened recently in a staff meeting on the need to raise awareness in the gene and protein world about how metabolism fits into their paradigm and why it’s important. The topic aroused a range of opinions, but on this day, one of my more enthusiastic colleagues proclaimed, “Duh, it’s your biochemistry!” He opined that the significance of biochemical research and metabolomics should be plainly evident for understanding biological systems, disease and health.

How effective is this statement to most life scientists - life scientists who, like me, were trained in an era of molecular biology?

As a Ph.D. student, I pursued fundamental biological questions using molecular biology as the focal point of my thinking and approach. From that perspective, it’s easy to see how my colleague’s statement would fail to intellectually or viscerally connect with me. It would not have been clear to me at the time that the biochemical pathways of metabolism are fundamental to almost all aspects of living systems and a proxy of the phenotype (DeBarardinis and Thompson, 2012). I suspect the same for many of my fellow life scientists.

This topic comes up frequently at Metabolon. While the last 30 years of life science research and training have been heavily focused on molecular biology, there is growing interest in biochemistry (McKnight, 2010). That’s an exciting prospect for us, since it may help researchers and clinicians complete the picture when attempting to define gene function and assess health, risk and progression of disease, and treatment response.

I’m kicking off the blog with this particular inaugural post, because my colleagues and I will be sharing our thoughts on news and applications of metabolomics and its value as a first-line phenotyping tool. We hope lively discussions unfold and that we all share a few “duh” moments.