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Synthetic Biologists Take to Sequencing

Nature News' Erica Check Hayden this week profiles a handful of synthetic biologists who are using next-generation sequencing and other molecular techniques to "quantify transcription in real time" and infer the 3-D "shapes of small RNA molecules," she says. The University of California, San Francisco's Chris Voigt tells Nature that "there's been a change in the scale of the problems that we can address, and this comes out of the tools that synthetic biology can provide." Hayden also takes a look at the National Science Foundation-supported International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology, or BIOFAB, initiative, which she says "has now made about 3,000 well-characterized [molecular] parts." But despite the successes synthetic biologists have demonstrated thus far, Hayden says "money is scarce for this kind of work." Harvard University's Pam Silver tells Nature that "there needs to be a frank and open discussion about funding in synthetic biology." According to Hayden, funding is but one challenge of the field that researchers will address along with funding agencies and industry this week at Stanford University's Fifth International Meeting on Synthetic Biology, which, she adds, "is sold out at 700 attendees, with a waiting list of at least 100."

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.