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Speculating on the Significance of the Sponge Genome

T. Ryan Gregory at Genomicron, who currently has a paper in review on genome sizes in sponges, says it's time for his team to update the manuscript's reference list now that investigators have published a draft sequence for Amphimedon queenslandica in Nature this week. Gregory notes that this study is "very cool, and allows some interesting comparisons with morphologically complex animals," but says, "this being a genome sequence and all, we can expect the following to show up in various reports" — that is, "misconceptions about evolution" and "hype about medical significance." The blogger has observed both, he says, referring to a press release from Rice University and the paper itself. The press release reads: "Sponge shines light on life's origin," though the blogger notes that A. queenslandica is a modern species. Gregory writes that "the original paper itself and various news stories play up the 'sponges will teach us lots about how to cure cancer' angle," which he attributes to the competitive nature of grant funding.

Mary at The OpenHelix Blog — hosted by the genomics research resource firm — says "another day, another genome," but adds that the A. queenslandica sequencing study provides an example of "why it's so cool to look at a species that you might not have thought was so special."

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.