Just send us your gene

« previous post | next post »

The most interesting spam email that I've gotten recently:

Need your protein expressed in E.coli? Not getting good results?

Just send us your gene.

Gen Script’s Guaranteed Package includes subcloning your gene into an expression vector, protein expression in E.coli, purification and refolding using our proprietary BacPowerTM technology – all for as low as $2,200.


You will receive:

· At least 3 mg of purified soluble protein
· Expression construct(s) and strain(s)
· QC materials (protocols, SDS-PAGE images, sequencing reports, etc.)

Definitely a step up from "Reduce Debt Now by 75%" and "free casino craps" and "Votre Phaaa o aarmacie en ligne, Viiiaaaagrrra – 0.89 EURO". (In fact, I'm sure that Gen Script is a legitimate business, even if they do send unsolicited commercial email to someone like me who has never expressed any interest in getting my proteins expressed for a fee.)

Obligatory linguistics reference: note the vagueness of your in English, which doesn't distinguish alienable from inalienable possession in such constructions. As I read the first few phrases, I briefly entertained the thought that perhaps this was an unusually geekish piece of pornography, rather than merely an attempt to sell scientific services to Nature's subscription list (or wherever they got my address from).


  1. James Crippen said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

    Someone should probably inform them that UCE is a bad idea before they lose any more face. What I’m really curious about is how they put together their spam list. Did they comb through the AAAS mailing lists or something?

  2. Nathan Myers said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

    James: Most likely they had no idea their product would be spammed. They probably just made the mistake of engaging an unscrupulous marketing vendor.

  3. marie-lucie said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

    You people seem to know what this means, but this is way beyond linguistics. What is this about, and what would be the usefulness of such a procedure?

  4. dr pepper said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

    It's for genetic researcxhers who do have the lab resource sufficient to build or isolate a given gene, but not the facilities to use it. So the business being advertised is a sort of dna job shop that will stick the gene in E Coli bacteria and grow a culture. They will then extract a sample of whatever protein the gene causes the bacteria to produce and send it to he customer, along with the logs and analysis of the process. They also undertake the responsibility for keeping the proper conditions.

    It's not that much different in concept from a printshop that will make a thousand copies of something you worked out on your deskjet printer. Or a plastic manufacturer that will mold and cast your prototype.

    It seemed bizarre at first then E Coli manipulation is over 30 years old now so exotci as it appears to outsiders, it's actually a well established industry.

  5. a guy said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 11:12 pm

    I would think it's more for the structural biologists and not the hardcore geneticists. Structure people need really pure and highly concentrated protein to get good results, and that can sometimes be a pain. There's really no difficulty in making the protein itself. Getting it out of your cells in a usable, pure form is the (often very) hard part, and that's what these guys offer to do.

  6. rpg said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 11:26 pm

    Hah. I made use of the service just last week. I'm just about to go into the lab and try to make the protein ('my' protein, I guess) from the DNA construct they sent.

    But I had not realized they were spamming the world and his/her/their dog. *Grr*

  7. marie-lucie said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

    Thank you, your comments are most informative! I had no idea that such things were being done.

  8. karolina said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 2:01 am

    Its annoying receiving spam especially if theres hundreds of them.

    However, with this one I agree that this pam could just be a business who cannot fund its research and would like the help of different people in sending their genes and paying a fee.

    It may also just be porn website pretending to be a gene sort of company. I am not sure because I wouldn't dare go to the website I might just see ponr stuff.

  9. M Byrne said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 3:05 am

    That you can have it all for "as low as $2,200" makes me think it is most certainly a scam. When scientists want your participation, they usually offer to pay you (and it's usually less than $100).

  10. Mark Liberman said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    @M Byrne: No, this is surely for real. And I don't think they're spamming "the world and their dog", I expect they got my name and email address from some bioinformatics conference I attended, or something like that. Given the thousands of spam emails that clog my spam filters every day, and the dozens that make it through, this single genuine offer for a service I happen not to need or want doesn't bother me a lot.

    Plus I got a weblog post out of it!

  11. Tamara said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

    Karolina and M Byrne, I think you are misunderstanding the email. They company is not asking people to send them genes because they want to use them for something. They are selling a service to researchers. Dr. Pepper explained it well (see above). As a scientist who does this sort of thing all the time, the ad sounds perfectly legitimate to me (at least, they used all the terminology correctly and the price is reasonable). But of course, they shouldn't send out their ads in spam emails.

  12. marcj said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

    Having written papers on "specific language impairment [SLI]" I now get ads from biotech companies trying to sell me stuff related to a gene called "Sli". Sadly it's not a grammar gene – just something called an "S-locus inhibitor." (Apparently I'll have to wait a bit longer for a grammar gene then…)

  13. Quicksand said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

    Perhaps the reason you have never expressed any interest in getting your proteins expressed for a fee is because you have never tried it.

    C'mon, everyone's doing it.

  14. rpg said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

    I only ordered DNA constructs from them. Three milligrams of purified protein really isn't a lot when you want to run NMR experiments, so I'll be making it myself (and then there is labelling with isotopes, etc.).

    Cost me ~ $650 (Australian, which is about the same in US$) for two constructs, each containing three versions of the protein domain that I'm working on.

    I'm seriously wondering if I should send them a politely worded email to the effect that spam is frowned upon, and the wrath of the Language Lab is to be visited upon them. In my best Samuel L. Jackson voice.

  15. Brett said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

    I get a similar kind of spam from a company advertising radioisotopes. I have no need for them, but as a physicist, I'm not surprised I got on their e-mail list.

  16. Greg S said,

    May 23, 2008 @ 1:30 am

    I'm a theoretical computer scientist, and I get this spam too, from biology[I'm not giving them any free links]project.net. It's vaguely amusing — "Even better, what if you did not have to use the highly mutagenic ethidium bromide?" — but considering that all the mails are different, but all have a carnival-hawker air to them, I don't think we can blame their spamming on "an unscrupulous marketing vendor", as the first poster surmised. You readers using their services, please complain to them! Meanwhile, now that I know they are semi-legit, I'll try my luck with their unsubscribe link.

  17. Greencard said,

    May 23, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

    To be honest as long as the majority of the internet consuming population is not aware of the criminal power of the internet – there will be spam.

    It will evolve over the time into even smarter applications and even sophisticated tactics to generate personal data. The most effective protection against this is your brain. Just try to get behind the idea an you will discover the obvious motive.

    You can switch off your computer but not your brain ;-)

  18. David Marjanović said,

    May 25, 2008 @ 5:10 pm

    "Even better, what if you did not have to use the highly mutagenic ethidium bromide?"

    Would be nice, but what is there that can stain DNA in vitro but not in vivo?


    Amusing indeed.

  19. Luke said,

    May 27, 2008 @ 12:05 am

    Wow…I used to work for a different company that does this exact kind of work, and purified many a protein from DNA constructs sent to us from other biotech companies. Never thought I'd run across my line of business being discussed on a site dedicated to my other main line of interest…
    And for the record, we did not spam, although I tend to wonder exactly how much business one could bring in this way, as those who need this sort of work done tend to already know where to find it.

  20. Luke said,

    May 27, 2008 @ 12:06 am

    Also, "as low as $2200" is rather disingenuous…many proteins simply can't be produced in an E.coli system and have to be produced in an insect or mammalian culture, which would cost way more than just $2200.

  21. karolina said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 8:54 pm

    in my work, this topic is a bit different,

    I always get lots of spam in my inbox. I get them 300 everyday and the spammers put the subject as Delivery Status Failure or Warning your message was delayed.

    It's annoying how spammers work and i don't know what they get from it.

    they probably get people visiting their website but because we know that they are just spamming our email it makes us suspicious about their real intentions. if they will really deliver the message that they are sending to us.

  22. Blake Stacey said,

    June 4, 2008 @ 6:20 pm

    You're not alone!

    This morning, I drew the short straw and became responsible for getting a set of conference proceedings organized and ready for publication. The first step was to dig through the e-mail backlog and find revisions of papers which had been sent to us, revisions which may or may not follow the proper formatting templates (one Big Name has already said that he doesn't want to bother with the "Procrustean bed requirement" demanded by Springer). In digging through this pile, I found a message from one Eric Wang (quiet, you), whose company offers to "synthesize and clone a 1 kb gene, with all mutations, deletions, fusions, epitope tags and codon optimizations you can think of" in twelve days. The e-mail signature identifies the company as Gen Script.

  23. Christian said,

    November 23, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

    I dont want to know what kind of stuff those spammers will find in their postboxes, maybe something they deserve :-)

RSS feed for comments on this post