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Still Going — and Stronger than Ever

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You might think that after publishing two cancer-themed issues in the past couple of years, we’d be at a loss to find innovative and exciting research going on in the same field. You’d be wrong.

As we geared up for our third annual cancer special issue, we went through all the usual fears and doubts: What if there’s not enough new research from the past year? What if people have lost interest in reading about cancer breakthroughs? What if the corner newsstand runs out of peanut M&Ms? (OK, that last one may have been just me.)

But after putting this magazine together, we can safely say that cancer research has never been more fascinating — or closer to having real clinical impact in patients’ lives. In this issue, we report on the lab that found a “master switch” tumor suppressor; new links discovered between cancer and aging, as well as cancer and metabolic pathways; RNA interference that might increase the effectiveness of chemo treatment; and more. I’d like to thank Peter Covitz, chief operating officer of NCI’s Center for Bioinformatics, for graciously agreeing to pen the Informatics Insider column this month. He gives a great report on the status of caBIG and related programs — check it out on p. 17.

The rest of the issue offers great reads as well. Our in-house IT expert Matt Dublin wrote the Brute Force article about Condor, the open source software that’s allowing researchers to use the idle cycles of their desktop computers to provide supercomputer-esque capacity.

In a feature article on metagenomics, you’ll find out about the data analysis challenges looming as this field generates an unprecedented volume of sequence data and tries to piece it back together into a picture of a particular community.

For the first of our three regional focus articles this year, Ciara Curtin dug into the science and culture for life scientists in Maryland. Her findings give a glimpse into cost of living, venture capital funding, state policies governing biotech, what scientists do for fun — and, of course, the crab that made the state famous.

One of the biggest concerns we hear from readers about their careers relates to management skills, a component most scientists feel they lack as they rise through the ranks and realize that they have become managers. For our career page this month, Jeanene Swanson checked in on a book released by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute designed to give new faculty members the advice they need to develop good managerial skills.

You’ve probably heard a lot about genetic testing and IVDMIAs. We contacted Gail Javitt at the Genetics & Public Policy Center for an explanation of the debate around the FDA’s involvement in genetic test regulation and why IVDMIAs are being treated differently from other tests. Javitt gave great insight into the situation, which I’m delighted to pass along in the Q&A you’ll find on p. 53.

Finally, to celebrate the launch of our newest sister publication, Biotech Transfer Week, we’ve included in our news section an article from the newsletter’s inaugural issue. It’s about embryonic stem cells and the tech transfer policies governing them — a debate that may very well have an impact on your work.

The Scan

Two J&J Doses

Johnson & Johnson says two doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provides increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19, CNN reports.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

The Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a lower-dose format appears to generate an immune response among children, according to the Washington Post.

Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

The Guardian writes that researchers are looking at gene editing chickens to help prevent future pandemics.

PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.