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Science Papers Present Updated Rhesus Macaque Genome Assembly, Responsible Use of Gene Drive Technology

An updated reference genome assembly for the rhesus macaque, the most widely used non-human primate (NHP) model in biomedical research, is reported in Science this week. An international team that included scientists from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri sequenced and assembled the genome of a female rhesus macaque of Indian origin using a variety of approaches including long-read sequencing, extensive manual curation, and experimental validation. They also generated 6.5 million full-length transcripts that they used to build a comprehensive set of protein-encoding and noncoding gene models. Whole-genome sequence data was generated for more than 850 captive and wild rhesus macaques, which they used to identify 85.7 million single-nucleotide variants and 10.5 million indel variants, including potentially damaging variants in genes associated with human autism and developmental delay, "providing a framework for developing noninvasive NHP models of human disease." GenomeWeb has more on this, here.

An interdisciplinary group of researchers, ethicists, regulators, and social scientists present in Science this week a set of core commitments aimed at ensuring the safe and responsible use of gene drive organism (GDO) technologies. The University of California, San Diego's Kanya Long and colleagues write that GDOs have the potential to "transform the way societies address a wide range of daunting public health and environmental challenges," but their "propensity to spread necessitates well-developed criteria for field trials to assess … potential impacts." As such, the authors propose commitments intended to address field trials of either localized GDOs or non-localized GDOs in ecologically isolated locations. These include the formation of partnerships and transparent data-sharing with collaborating communities and stakeholders; the creation of performance parameters for GDOs; engagement with regulators; the development of methodologies for risk-benefit evaluation; and the establishment of plans for GDO monitoring and mitigation. "By presenting our commitments for field trials of GDOs, we aim to prepare for potential field trials that are scientifically, politically, and socially robust, publicly accountable, and widely transparent," the authors write.

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