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Face of the Suspect

Police in Maryland have used genetic material left behind by a serial rapist to put together a facial composite, WJLA reports.

The man is wanted for breaking into a 68-year-old woman's condo twice, seven months apart, and raping her both times, as well as breaking into four other homes and raping five other women between 2010 and 2012, WJLA says.

As the police have yet to arrest anyone, they turned to the DNA phenotyping services of Parabon NanoLabs, which predicts ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape from DNA samples. In 2016, prosecutors in Massachusetts used DNA phenotype to develop a sketch of suspect in a 1992 murder case, and the New York Times used a similar approach in 2015 to make sketches of its newsroom staff with varying levels of success. The Times cautioned then that technology connecting genes to facial features wasn't quite there.

WJLA says that this is the second time that the Montgomery County police have turned to this approach, which can cost thousands of dollars. "From our perspective, this is money well spent," Montgomery County Police Department spokesperson Rick Goodale tells WJLA. "It's fascinating that we've progressed to a point that we can use DNA technology now to create these composites."

The Scan

Panel Votes for COVID-19 Pill

A US Food and Drug Administration panel has voted to support the emergency use authorization of an antiviral pill for COVID-19 from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, CNN says.

But Not Harm

New Scientist reports that UK bioethicists say that though gene editing may improve food production, it should not harm livestock welfare.

Effectiveness Drop Anticipated

Moderna's Stéphane Bancel predicts that that current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines may be less effective against the Omicron variant, the Financial Times reports.

Cell Studies of Human Chromatin Accessibility, SARS-CoV-2 Variants, Cell Signaling Networks

In Cell this week: chromatin accessibility maps of adult human tissues, modeling to track SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, and more.