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Newest 'Geniuses'

Trevor Bedford, a computational virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is among this year's crop of MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" recipients, the Washington Post reports.

As the MacArthur Foundation, which bestows the $625,000 awards, says, Bedford developed a platform initially dubbed Nextflu to track the different strains of flu in circulating, but since expanded to track other viruses like Zika, Ebola, and, more recently SARS-CoV-2, and taking on the new name of Nextstrain. "Through his rigorous and timely analysis of evolutionary dynamics and commitment to creating open source and collaborative tools, Bedford is improving our collective ability to detect the emergence of novel viruses and to respond to infectious disease outbreaks," the foundation says in its announcement.

NPR adds that Bedford was also recently named as a 2021 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

"It's really been difficult for me to reconcile that with feeling like [these prizes are] coming out of my work on the pandemic," he tells NPR. "It's hard to accept things given that it came out of such terrible circumstances."

The new MacArthur fellows include Michelle Monje, a neurologist and neuro-oncologist at Stanford University; Victor Torres, a microbiologist at New York University; and Ibrahim Cissé, a biological physicist at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics; among others.

The Scan

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.

Active Lifestyle Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Prevention in People at High Genetic Risk

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that an active lifestyle goes a long way in type 2 diabetes prevention.

Beneficial, Harmful Effects of Introgression Between Wild and Domesticated European Grapes

A paper in PNAS shows that European wild grapevines were an important resource for improving the flavor of cultivated wine grapes.

Genetic Ancestry of South America's Indigenous Mapuche Traced

Researchers in Current Biology analyzed genome-wide data from more than five dozen Mapuche individuals to better understand their genetic history.