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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

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.