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Array Tests: From Two to Tidal Wave

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It will be a long time before you go to the doctor’s office and walk out with your genome on a disc. (So long, in fact, that I won’t even call it a CD or DVD; by the time this scenario becomes realistic, we’ll all undoubtedly have converted once again to some entirely new kind of storage media.) But going to your doctor’s office and walking out with results from a microarray diagnostic? Now that’s actually getting downright likely.

Roche made history in 2003 with its AmpliChip — the first commercial array-based diagnostic. Early this year, a company called Agendia secured FDA approval for its test, which became the second chip-based test on the market. At this rate, we’d be lucky to have 10 such diagnostics available by the time most of us are packing up for assisted living communities and chair workouts led by someone named Rhonda. But plodding as their progress has been so far, array-based diagnostics are set to take off. The success of AmpliChip and Agendia’s MammaPrint has paved the way for the dozens of other array tests currently in biotech pipelines around the world. And it’s with that coming flood of diagnostics in mind that Ciara Curtin embarked on this issue’s cover story. Ciara’s article is an essential primer not only on the technology, people, and companies involved in the field, but also on the vagaries of regulatory agencies and insurance companies that are proving to be just about as challenging as designing a useful diagnostic array in the first place.

Also inside, you’ll find results from our second conference survey. You told us which meetings are worth your time and which can be skipped, along with plenty of other information that we’ve pulled together in a conference planning guide complete with rankings and ratings of the most popular shows. A lot of you choose which conferences to attend based on word of mouth — think of this resource as word of more than 800 mouths. I hope you’ll find it a time-saving resource that can help ensure that you attend only the most rewarding scientific meetings.

Our tech guide this month aims to troubleshoot your sequencing assembly and alignment challenges. The guide speaks for itself, but I wanted to point out that our experts don’t just cover assembly and alignment for conventional sequencing — they hail from cutting-edge labs dealing with ultra-short reads from next-gen sequencers, so they offer advice on that front as well. Since many of you are just learning to cope with these sequence mini-snippets, this guide seems especially timely and practical.

This issue of the magazine marks GT’s seventh birthday. Forgive me for gloating, but that makes us the longest-running news magazine focused on genomics and all of its scientific offshoots. While I would love to take at least some of the credit for that record, it’s actually terrific and loyal readers like you who have made this magazine a success by telling us what you like, keeping us relevant, and continuing to subscribe. So many, many thanks to you for reading. We know that time is your most precious resource, and we’re honored that you spend some of that with us.

The Scan

Panel Votes for COVID-19 Pill

A US Food and Drug Administration panel has voted to support the emergency use authorization of an antiviral pill for COVID-19 from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, CNN says.

But Not Harm

New Scientist reports that UK bioethicists say that though gene editing may improve food production, it should not harm livestock welfare.

Effectiveness Drop Anticipated

Moderna's Stéphane Bancel predicts that that current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines may be less effective against the Omicron variant, the Financial Times reports.

Cell Studies of Human Chromatin Accessibility, SARS-CoV-2 Variants, Cell Signaling Networks

In Cell this week: chromatin accessibility maps of adult human tissues, modeling to track SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, and more.