On February 15, the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard deserved the patent that it was granted in 2014 for the use of CRISPR in eukaryotes. Lawyers representing Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues, who first used the technology in prokaryotes, had claimed that the Broad’s patent directly competed with their work. The ruling was a “decisive victory” for the Broad, Jake Sherkow of New York Law School told The Scientist. UC Berkeley may still appeal the decision.
Publicly available DNA sequences are more prone to error than previously thought, according to a study published February 16 in Science. Using an algorithm, researchers estimated that 41 percent of samples in the 1000 Genomes database and 73 percent of samples in the Cancer Genome Atlas likely incurred mutations in sample processing—human error, rather than legitimate genetic variants.
Some scientists have voiced concerns that the March for Science will only politicize their endeavors, and not effect any real change. But Katie Gibbs, Alana Westwood, and Kathleen Walsh of Evidence for Democracy in Ottawa argue in an opinion piece for The Scientist that this is not necessarily the case. Hearkening back to Canada’s “Death of Evidence” march for science in 2012, they note: “In the run-up to the rally, we heard many of the same concerns from some in the scientific community regarding credibility and practicality. Their concerns proved to be unfounded.”
India’s University Grants Commission will incentivize scientists to publish only in well-known journals, the Hindu reported last month. The commission published a list of more than 38,000 journals that made the cut, and will award academic performance indicators—points that can be applied toward promotions—to authors who publish in these journals. “The basic intention of the UGC here seems to be [to] put a halt on substandard research publications in so called ‘predatory journals’ carried out by few academicians with an aim to merely fulfill minimum publication criteria for promotion,” Roosy Aulakh, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Chandigarh, wrote in an email to The Scientist.
Extra genes often compensate for one another and paired yeast genes are no exception—well, some of the time. Out of 56 pairs of genes examined, researchers found that 22 acted as expected. When one paralog was removed, the other acted as a backup, and retained its interactions with proteins. But for 22 pairs, the removal of one paralog caused the other to malfunction, losing these interactions.
Other news in life science
The Scientist now has all of its policy coverage in one place. For an interactive map of the March for Science locations, Q&As with local organizers, and our complete coverage of the new Trump administration, visit our Science Policy in 2017 page.
Family members of Lacks, the donor behind the widely used HeLa cell line, are planning to sue Johns Hopkins University.
Researchers have described a pregnant Dinochephalosaurus, and the fossilized remains suggest that the massive animal did not lay eggs, as previously suspected.
An international committee says scientists should be allowed to modify human embryos as long as strict oversight criteria are met.
The Nobel laureate helped lay the groundwork for today’s ubiquitous magnetic resonance imaging machines.
Major research funding agencies lend their support to an ASAPbio-led effort to streamline the banking of non–peer-reviewed manuscripts in the life sciences.
Two samples of Sphaerocystis that spent 530 days growing on a panel outside of the International Space Station have returned to Earth largely unscathed.
Speciation and development of new traits may not always go hand-in-hand.