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Salary surveys, genetic discrimination bills, and sequence analysis

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One year ago in Genome Technology, our cover story was the magazine’s second annual salary survey, which offered results from the data provided by 1,180 readers. As we reported at the time, our readers’ data indicated that the life sciences field was moving away from the economic problems that had plagued it in the preceding couple of years; layoffs were down, raises were up, and salaries seemed to be moving in the right direction.

This year, our cover story is once again our salary survey, and results suggest that the field continues to stabilize. Layoffs and pay cuts were comparable to their rates in the previous year, and salary ranges for the most part stayed fairly consistent. But we also find that a small portion of readers who received a raise last year don’t expect one this year. Responses to a new question about future plans indicate that scientists are often surveying the field for other opportunities: fully 40 percent of respondents who say their primary task is structural biology expect to leave their current job within a year. For that and loads more data, check out this year’s salary survey, starting on p. 24.

In the news last year was a short article about Francis Collins’ push to get involved in personalized medicine. Collins made the argument that without significant legislative changes to protect people from genetic discrimination, major initiatives would not get off the ground. In the year since, the NHGRI director has continued to make his argument. At the ASHG meeting last October, Collins sat down with reporters to talk about the idea of a US-based large-scale cohort study similar to what the UK is attempting to do with its Biobank. Such a project could have a tremendous impact on medicine, Collins contended, but added that even suggesting such a thing would not be feasible without legislative support. This year the Senate has once again passed a genetic nondiscrimination bill — its second such attempt — but at press time there was no word on whether the bill would get through in the House of Representatives, where a similar bill stalled in 2003.

In another news story last year, GT looked at Synamatix, an up-and-coming data analysis company based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In the year since, the company has continued to get attention, and recently launched a new module called FragBase, a pattern-recognition technology designed to prioritize and study relationships between sequences. The company says this particular application will help it establish a position for handling short sequence reads — a need that is expected to grow exponentially as genome sequencing becomes more affordable and technologies such as single-molecule sequencing take hold but produce shorter and shorter reads than their capillary cousins.

Coming Up: Next Month in GT

Don’t miss these features in the July issue:

 

Genomics in drug development. A growing trend indicates that integrated biology is gaining ground in the development phases at big pharma, particularly in the burgeoning field of toxicogenomics. Meet the pharmaceutical researchers who are incorporating genomics and related science into various elements of drug development.

 

Population genetics. Best known through early initiatives like DeCode Genetics’ study of people in Iceland, population genetics is exploding right now thanks to cheaper sequence data, better chip technology, and more comprehensive SNP databases. It’s a ripe time for GT’s feature, which will look into the many components of systems biology that are fostering population genetics, as well as the key issues — scientific, logistical, and ethical — of biobanking.

 

Systems biology roundtable. In a directed discussion on how to implement systems biology, experts from the field break down the science and where it’s going. Where are they now?

 

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.