HELIX Vol. 1, No. 1

Paul’s Comments

[audio:https://sherrlock.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/helix-vol-1-no-111.mp3|titles=Helix Vol 1 No 1]

HELIX VOL. 1, NO. 1 – Introduction to Posting on April 2, 2012

As I croakingly describe it in the accompanying audio (linked above) my best plans to comment on the entire first issue of Helix were upset by the time I reached page three of twelve.  (It was a small first issue.) Still I did browse the entire tabloid, and was charmed with pleasant and often vivid memories.  But the audio commentary is keyed entirely to subjects on those first two pages.

A similar restraint will follow next Monday with the second issue.  And so on and on for nearly three years more with a new old issue appearing each week on Wash Day.  For this first issue, and the rest of them too, I’ll choose only a few ripe subjects to comment on.  (The alternative would resemble biblical commentary piled on by medieval scholastics, a volume many times greater than scripture itself.)

Perhaps I will get to comment later on pages three to twelve, especially if asked about its parts by readers.  And it may be that at some point I will return to add something to any page in any of the issues, thereby compiling a Summa Helixa – although not so systematic as Doctor Universalis’ Summa.

Besides the recorded but ragged weekly commentaries, I might also attach more captioned photographs – relevant but not necessarily directly to that week’s issue.  I’ll include a few examples at the bottom.

While preparing this first issue I noticed a little hoax on the front cover.  It was given the page number 35. It was new to me, but Ron Edge, who is scanning (Blessings to the Scanner) all the issues, was aware of the wild number and thought it was a prankish gift of first issue enthusiasm.  Surely that is so, and I suspect Meryl Clemens, one of the paper’s founders and also one of the artists who contributed to the front cover.   Ron scanned his own copy, which is better than mine, but still his ink has also faded in 45 years.

Entering the first Helix office at 4526 Roosevelt Way, one was met by an oversize American flag draped along the north wall. Here we see Tim Harvey, the tall short-haired figure with his back to the door. Tim was with the paper from the start.
Scott White - facing the camera - and others at the layout table.
Geneticist Henry Erlich's "Making the Revolution" board game.

As it developed Henry was certainly the most distinguished among us – a brilliant man of great kindness and charm.  With the freedom of blogging I have found his fairliy recent vita and print it here.


Since the early 1980s, Henry A. Erlich has been well-known in the forensic and medical communities for helping to pioneer the research and development of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique that ultimately lead to a number of important forensic and clinical applications. As a result of the pioneering efforts of Erlich and his team of scientists, the first commercial PCR typing kit was developed specifically for forensic use. Currently, Erlich is the director of the Department of Human Genetics and vice-president of Discovery Research, both for Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.; and the co-director (and co-founder) of the HLA Laboratory at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institutell three located in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

Erlich grew up in Seattle, Washington. He began his bachelor’s of art degree in 1961 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he completed his degree in 1965 with a major in biochemical sciences. That same year, Erlich was a research assistant at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Erlich then began his advanced degree, completing his doctor’s of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in 1972 from the University of Washington (Seattle) with a genetics concentration. While working on his degree in 1967, Erlich also worked with street gangs as a Vista volunteer in New Mexico. Erlich did his postdoctoral work in microbial genetics (1972975) at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he was employed as a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton’s Department of Biology. Erlich did further postdoctoral work in immunogenetics (1975979) at Stanford University (California), where he was employed as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Department of Medicine, Division of Immunology.

After completing his postdoctoral studies, Erlich became a scientist at Cetus Corporation, an Oakland-area biopharmaceutical/biotechnology company located in Emeryville, California, where he held various teaching positions and served on the editorial boards of such industry publications as Human Immunology, PCR Methods and Applications, and Technique. Erlich was later promoted to senior scientist and director of the Human Genetics Department, both positions that he held until 1991.

During his early-1980s work with Cetus, Erlich led the human genetics group in the research of PCR techniques. He was especially interested in developing technology for the study of human genetic variation, and with it the applications in forensics and clinical medicine. In 1986, Erlich’s research resulted in development of a PCR technique that ultimately produced a number of clinical and forensic applications. Also in 1986, in what is generally considered the first use of PCR-based forensic DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) analysis in a U.S. court case, Erlich carried out the confirmation that two autopsy samples came from the same person in the case Pennsylvania v. Pestinikas. About two years later, Erlich and his scientific team saw the development of a commercial PCR typing kit as the first forensic application within the United States of DNA typing of HLA-DQA (human leukocyte antigen with a DQ alpha PCR test) locus.

Erlich transferred to Roche Molecular Systems, Inc., located in Alameda, California, in 1991 when the company acquired the rights of PCR technology from Cetus. Today, Erlich holds three important positions with Roche: director of Roche’s Human Genetics Department, since 1992; co-director of the HLA Laboratory at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), in Oakland, California, since 1996; and vice president of Roche’s Discovery Research, since 2000. Erich’s work at CHORI puts into clinical practice the technologies that he had developed for PCR-based HLA typing.

The primary research performed by Erlich in concert with Roche involves the analysis of molecular evolution and population genetics of HLA genes along with human genetic variation and genetic susceptibility to diseases, especially on autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. He also researches the analysis of polymorphism in HLA genes and the development of HLA typing for class I and class II loci within tissue typing and transplantation, anthropological genetics, and individual identification.

Erlich maintains an academic affiliation with the Stanford School of Medicines, where he is an adjunct professor of medical microbiology and immunology. In addition, he also sits on several editorial boards (such as Human Mutation and Tissue Antigens); participates on numerous human genetics committees (such as the International Histocompatibility Council and the National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence-Research and Development Working Group); and is a member of the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics and the American Society for Human Genetics. Erlich has authored several books, with one of the latest titled PCR Technology: Principles and Applications for DNA Amplification.

Erlich has also been bestowed with many honors within genetic research and writing including such awards as the Gideon Goldstein Award (Walter and Eliza Institutes, 1989), the Biochemical Analysis Award (German Society of Clinical Chemistry, 1990), the Brown-Hazen Award (Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research, 1990), The Rose Payne Award (American Society of Histocompatibility Immunogenetics, 1990), the Advanced Technology in Biotechnology Milano Award (International Federation of Clinical Chemistry, 1991), the Award for Excellence (Association for Molecular Pathology, 2000), the Profiles in DNA Courage Award (National Institute of Justice, 2000), and the Colonel Harland Sanders Award (March of Dimes Clinical Genetics Conference, 2000).


Following geneticist E. Henry (above) we appropriately pick a page from Double Helix, a one-time tabloid published ca. 1972 by Michael Wiater and myself.

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