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Biomarker Bonanza

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It’s tough to hear about biomarkers and not wonder if, in a few years, the concept will be remembered as just another buzzword in the history of hype. After all, they stormed into view with tremendous potential, and have yet to deliver in more than a handful of cases. But with the amount of research rallying around biomarkers, it’s also hard to imagine that they won’t get somewhere. Just what will it take to get biomarkers to the clinic?

That question was the mandate of GT’s senior editor, Jen Crebs, who relied on her experience in the pharmacogenomics field to tackle this month’s cover story. After speaking with more than a dozen academic, biotech, and pharma leaders working in that arena, Jen got the sense that this science is definitely on the move. As many of you have seen during the past few years, NIH has embraced research further downstream than ever, making biomarker discovery and validation increasingly relevant to academic scientists. And many pharmas have turned their internal structures inside out to encourage innovation around this idea. Don’t miss this story for the latest research in all kinds of biomarkers — derived from sources as diverse as proteomics, metabolomics, and epigenomics — as well as the latest approaches pharmas are taking and current efforts on the regulatory front to make these viable.

Also in this issue, we check in on the latest in next-generation sequencing. Every time we check back on this field, it seems that the rate of change has somehow gotten even faster than it was before. For this article, we spoke with current leaders in the field as well as several soon-to-be vendors. We also interviewed several customers to get their feedback on the 454 instrument.

As you have seen in recent issues, GT’s latest addition to the magazine is a regular installment we call “Under One Roof” — a look at how systems biology institutes are finding ways to combine various technology platforms, such as mass spec and RNAi and microarrays. This month, we stray just a bit from our usual subject with a peek into the inner workings of the Stephenson Research and Technology Center at the University of Oklahoma, home of Bruce Roe’s Advanced Center for Genome Technology. Stephenson isn’t necessarily a systems biology institute, but it includes many of the same components. What makes its story unusual is its setup as a director-less, equal-footing environment that has served (somewhat surprisingly) to encourage collaboration every bit as much as centers where a director works full-time to get people teaming up for their research. Indulge us this slight divergence from our usual Under One Roof path, and I think you’ll agree that it’s an interesting and informative case about scientists from all sorts of disciplines finding ways to partner their efforts and resources.

And finally, I’d like to give a belated credit to Michael Liebman, who while collaborating with Barbara Weber developed the algorithm that was used to generate the data image we used on the cover of our March issue.

— Meredith W. Salisbury, Editor

The Scan

For Better Odds

Bloomberg reports that a child has been born following polygenic risk score screening as an embryo.

Booster Decision Expected

The New York Times reports the US Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine this week for individuals over 65 or at high risk.

Snipping HIV Out

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Temple University researchers are to test a gene-editing approach for treating HIV.

PLOS Papers on Cancer Risk Scores, Typhoid Fever in Colombia, Streptococcus Protection

In PLOS this week: application of cancer polygenic risk scores across ancestries, genetic diversity of typhoid fever-causing Salmonella, and more.