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Wall-to-Wall Bioinformatics

Next Generation Technologist ponders whether the market can really support the slew of bioinformatics companies popping up to analyze data from next-gen sequencers.

Citing a list compiled by Geoffrey Routh that includes 90 informatics firms — from Abiomics to Woodward Informatics — Dale Yuzuki notes that "new companies are being formed, large software and hardware firms are expanding into the life sciences, and others are offering in addition to software options the implementation of a cloud-based service."

But "can the market absorb all these new offerings?" he asks. As has been the case in bioinformatics for more than a decade, most genomic research groups still rely on open source software to do their analysis — in large part because most research grants do not include funds for purchasing software. "It's hard to compete with free," Yuzuki says.

Nevertheless, he notes that the field is still in its infancy and there is no recognized "best way" to perform genomic analysis, leaving the sector wide open for the proliferation of startups with novel methods. "We are in a phase of the market that will tolerate a lot of creative approaches before the inevitable pruning begins," he says.

"Is there room for 90 companies to produce software or provide software as a service for genomics? Eventually, definitely not," he says. In the meantime, "a hundred flowers bloom."

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.