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The Biotech Maturation

Despite the financial crisis, industrial biotechnology "is taking off," writes The Economist. This sector is doing well, the article says, because the technology has matured beyond the laboratory stage and large corporations are beginning to take advantage of it. Indeed, a few startups that are now being backed by larger firms: Royal Dutch Shell has invested in Codexis and the French oil company Total is backing Amyris. "We're not just dealing with vats any more," says Volkert Claassen of Royal DSM.

A related article looks into the entwinement of biofuels and ethanol — "With a viable new biofuel yet to emerge, lobbyists are still pushing to support the old one," it says. Ethanol advocates want to extend US tariffs on ethanol imports and a tax credit that are set to expire at the end of the year. "Between 2005 and 2009 the tax credit for blending petrol with ethanol cost $17 billion. This year it will cost some $5.4 billion," the article says. "Surely the money could be better spent somewhere else."

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.