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On Credibility and Privacy


GINA Passes

Bloggers hung on with bated breath as GINA, or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, got its floor time in the US Senate. Over at the Genetic Genealogist, Blaine Bettinger blogged that "this bill is considered by many to be an important first step in providing protections against the misuse of recent and future developments in genetic sequencing and analysis technology." But even as people celebrated the passage of the bill, blogger Daniel MacArthur summarized a review article from George Church saying that people would be better off realizing that in the genomic era, privacy is really no more than an illusion anyway.

Mixing Religion and Science

The intersection of religion and science always gets bloggers going, and this month there was plenty to talk about. Linking to a New York Times article about evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala and his book on science and religion, Jonathan Eisen said he was glad to see someone other than Francis Collins addressing the topic. Framing Science blogger Matthew Nisbet warned atheistic scientists about going to extremes in their arguments, since many scientists do believe in some form of God. Meanwhile, 'academic freedom' bills took center stage, with people like William Gunn lamented legislation targeted at allowing schools to teach creationist theory alongside evolution in science classes.

Merck's Ghostwriters

At his In the Pipeline blog, Derek Lowe took Merck to task on the news that the pharma had published a number of peer-reviewed papers on its Vioxx drug listing academic authors who made little or no contribution to the scientific research. The news emerged as JAMA reported that the papers were written by Merck staff but credit was given to non-Merck scientists, presumably to boost the papers' credibility. Steven Salzberg posted to his blog, Genomics, Evolution, and Pseudoscience, the "Vioxx Wall of Shame" — the list of academic scientists who had agreed to be listed as authors on the Merck papers.

Personal Genomics Data

No month would be complete without more opinions on consumer genomics companies. Antonio Oliveira at Longa Vista blogged that he got his results back from 23andMe and from DecodeMe, and that he had written a computer program to compare the results. In the more than 550,000 SNPs scanned by both tests, Oliveira says his program determined that there was a nearly 100 percent similarity between sets of results. Kevin Kelly, who blogs at The Quantified Self, told reporter David Ewing Duncan that he wasn't learning very much about himself from the data he received from 23andMe and from DecodeMe.

The Scan

US Supports Patent Waivers

NPR reports that the Biden Administration has announced its support for waiving intellectual property protections for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

Vaccines Versus Variants

Two studies find the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to be effective against viral variants, and Moderna reports on booster shots to combat variants.

CRISPR for What Ails You

The Wall Street Journal writes that CRISPR-based therapies could someday be used to treat common conditions like heart attacks.

Nature Papers Review Integration of Single-Cell Assay Data, Present Approach to Detect Rare Variants

In Nature this week: review of ways to integrate data from single-cell assays, and more.