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The Big Questions

There are a lot of outstanding questions and issues, both academic and practical, facing the world, and Harvard University's George Whitesides tells Technology Review that one intellectual question he'd like to better understand is the origin of life — how does something go random chemicals to a "set of reactions that are getting more complicated spontaneously."

Additionally, Whitesides says that another issue is translating university research to the real world. "The idea that publically funded science should have some measure of 'I'm doing it because, and this is where it might end up being useful,' strikes me as being perfectly reasonable," he later adds. "I think it'll actually make for better science, too, because it's very easy in academic science to end up working on projects that are just little extensions of previously known stuff, and that's sort of a waste of time."

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.