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This Week in Science: Feb 4, 2011

In Science this week, an international research team led by investigators at Indiana University report a draft sequence for the microcrustacean Daphnia pulex genome, "which is only 200 megabases and contains at least 30,907 genes." The team shows that tandem gene clusters generate the high gene count, and that "more than a third of Daphnia's genes have no detectable homologs in any other available proteome, and the most amplified gene families are specific to the Daphnia lineage." The Indiana University-led team also suggests that Daphnia-specific genes are especially responsive to ecological challenges.

Science this week publishes the first articles of its month-long series in which it celebrates the 10th anniversary of the human genome. NIH Director Francis Collins reflects on the decade-old accomplishment, and recalls the "striking" images of human faces that appeared on the covers of both Nature and Science. "Real faces are now appearing that demonstrate the medical value of comprehensive genome sequencing," Collins says. In touting the proposed NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, Collins says his "hope is that when the day arrives to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original human genome publications, we will be able to look at a world filled with the faces of people whose health has been improved by the sequencing of their genomes."

Meanwhile, J. Craig Venter expresses his concerns for the future of sequencing technologies. Short sequence reads, he says, "make sequence assemblies of substantial length improbable" and present standardization issues. "Some investigators only layer their short sequences against a 'reference' and do not try to assemble a sequence, which makes it problematic to define scientific standards for a 'genome sequence,'" Venter says in Science . Further, Venter predicts sequence analysis issues, should researchers fail to standardize phenotypic data sets, as these "will be the foundation for accurately predicting clinical outcomes from DNA sequence information." In his essay, Venter also criticizes direct-to-consumer genomics firms, and concludes that "for genome sequencing to reach its full potential we still have a long way to go."

And Baylor College of Medicine's Richard Gibbs expects geneticists and genomicists to reconnect going forward as a result of the "exciting data ... from solving the genetics of individual Mendelian disorders, where the phenotype-genotype relationships really make sense." Though genomics came into is own as a discipline distinct from genetics more than two decades ago, Gibbs says in this week's Science that "the two are coming back together."

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.