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A 'Flawed' Plan

The UK's Border Agency is beginning a six-month pilot project to use DNA testing to determine the nationalities of people seeking asylum, reports the Observer. In conjunction with language analysis, interviews, and other techniques, the agency hopes to limit bogus claims in which people from one country are saying they are from another — particularly focusing on people claiming to be from Somalia — to increase their chances of receiving asylum. According to ScienceInsider, researchers have called this program "horrifying," "naïve," and "flawed" and that the agency is "[confusing] ancestry or ethnicity with nationality." Imperial College London's David Balding adds that "genes don't respect national borders, as many legitimate citizens are migrants or direct descendants of migrants, and many national borders split ethnic groups."

Genetic Future's Daniel MacArthur also weighs in:

I'm skeptical that we have sufficient data on patterns of genetic variation within Africa to be able to use it to guide accurate decisions; until the Border Agency can demonstrate publicly that its models for geographical ancestry prediction is robust it would be inhumane to use them to decide on a refugee's fate.

ScienceInsider also has a list of key questions, such as which markers are being tested — the answer is that it's not known — here.

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.