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The Core Lab Wallendas

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I once worked at a company where the senior leaders were affectionately known as the Wallendas. A reference to the Flying Wallendas — a death-defying circus act that included a high-wire performance without a safety net — the nickname was a recognition of the constant balancing act that was a critical part of the top managers' jobs.

In the genomics community, we have a group of Wallendas too. They're the directors of core laboratories who are continually trying to balance new technology acquisition, meeting current needs, and covering costs without charging too much. It's no enviable task.

For our cover story this month, Ciara Curtin immersed herself in the core facility world to find out how successful labs get (and stay) that way. What she discovered is that many of the rules of best practices in research carry over to service labs — networking, for instance, is an essential part of staying current and establishing good contacts who will be valuable sounding boards in the future. Also, core facilities need to have a steady stream of feedback from both users and institute members who aren't yet customers. If you fall into one of those two groups, don't pass up opportunities to share your opinions with your core labs.

Elsewhere in this issue, we've got articles on informatics — one on the challenges of alignment and assembly tools for next-gen sequence data, and another on the tool and database issues faced by scientists investigating metabolomics. There's a story on protein microarrays, which have made remarkable progress and are used routinely in disease screening studies. Finally, Fran Lewitter and George Bell write about the growing importance of studying noncoding RNAs.

By the time this issue lands on your desk, our new website will have debuted. We've worked on it for the better part of a year and we hope that it makes it easier for you to find relevant and useful information that helps your research and your career. Our designer, Scout Stevenson, and our lead developer, Moshe Weitzman, did yeoman's work and we can't thank them enough.

The Scan

Renewed Gain-of-Function Worries

The New York Times writes that the pandemic is renewing concerns about gain-of-function research.

Who's Getting the Patents?

A trio of researchers has analyzed gender trends in biomedical patents issued between 1976 and 2010 in the US, New Scientist reports.

Other Uses

CBS Sunday Morning looks at how mRNA vaccine technology could be applied beyond SARS-CoV-2.

PLOS Papers Present Analysis of Cervicovaginal Microbiome, Glycosylation in Model Archaea, More

In PLOS this week: functional potential of the cervicovaginal microbiome, glycosylation patterns in model archaea, and more.