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The Austerity Age


Two years ago, as the economy began to falter, I realized that if I stopped buying my lunch and began bringing it in from home — I'm partial to PB&Js and Caesar salads, though both get all over as I eat — I could save about $55 a week and that, I quickly calculated, added up to a tidy sum over the course of a year. I wasn't the only one. Friends told me about bringing cans of soup to work to heat it up in the winter instead of buying it from a deli, or closely watching receipts to see where their money was being spent. Even today, whole countries — Greece, Germany, the United Kingdom — are talking about austerity packages. Everyone, it seems, is looking for ways to save money. The new thrift, it's been called.

Scientists must nearly always be thrifty, but in recent years it has become increasingly important. Even before the economy went south, research funding levels were barely keeping pace with inflation rates. Though the stimulus package in the US has injected much needed money into biomedical research, there are worries that its benefits will be short-lived. So, researchers are trying to squeeze all they can out of their budgets. In this issue's cover story, GT looks into just that: ways to keep within, and to stretch, your budget.

Elsewhere in the issue, Matthew Dublin reports work to move basic cancer research from the lab into the clinic. There are a number of efforts, he reports, to gain a better understanding of the disease and all its various subtypes, and to develop new and better therapies. In addition, Tracy Vence wonders whether microarrays will be left by the wayside as the rush to use RNA-seq intensifies. Many experts she spoke with suspect arrays will always play niche roles.

Also, check out this month's Case Study, in which Christie Rizk reports on a new method to identify SNPs. SNIP-seq, as it's called, may find those variants with a lower rate of false positives

And if you manage not to get jelly on these pages as you flip through the magazine this month reading those and other articles, you are doing better than I am.

The Scan

And For Adolescents

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

Also of Concern to WHO

The Wall Street Journal reports that the World Health Organization has classified the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.617 as a "variant of concern."

Test for Them All

The New York Times reports on the development of combined tests for SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses like influenza.

PNAS Papers on Oral Microbiome Evolution, Snake Toxins, Transcription Factor Binding

In PNAS this week: evolution of oral microbiomes among hominids, comparative genomic analysis of snake toxins, and more.