Veritas Genetics, which offered to sequence people's genomes for rock-bottom prices, will cease US operations after it failed to raise a new round of financing....

Low price: The company, based in Boston, had tried to entice consumers to get their genome sequenced by lowering the price to $599 last July.

At that cost, Veritas was losing money on every genome. But it hoped to introduce a Netflix-like subscription model; customers would pay ongoing fees to learn new things from their DNA, such as disease risk predictions.

The company had sequenced between 5,000 and 10,000 genomes so far but there were signs that demand for the service was weak.

China worry: A person familiar with the company said it was going out of business in the US because it could not find new investors given concerns it had previously taken money from China. 

Veritas' main investors are all Chinese. They are Lilly Asia Venture, Simcere Pharmaceutical, and TrustBridge Partners. 

The US has warned companies working in sensitive areas, including DNA data, over taking Chinese funds. In June, US regulators forced the sale of another American health company, PatientsLikeMe, because its primary investor was in China.  

Veritas had been trying to raise between $50 to $75 million since earlier this year, this person said, but new investors balked at the Chinese ownership. 

Bad news:  Veritas tweeted this afternoon that due to an "unexpected adverse financing situation" it would suspend its operations in the US. CNBC reported that it had laid off most of its staff.

The company says it is going to try to make a comeback and continues operations overseas. "I can clarify this temporarily affects US operations only," Mirza Cifric, the CEO of Veritas, said in an email. He said customers outside the US would continue to be served.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission just took a picture of debris being ejected from the surface of asteroid Bennu. It’s the first time we’ve ever been able to directly image this kind of event, but scientists...

What happened: The new finding, published in Science today, shows the detection of three different ejection events from early 2019. Each resulted in hundreds of centimeter-size particles being thrown off its surface. Some were thrust into space, while others stayed in Bennu’s orbit and eventually landed back on the surface.

Bennu can now be classified as an “active” asteroid, meaning it loses mass. Scientists have narrowed the causes down to three possible mechanisms: cracking caused by drastic temperature changes (for Bennu the temperature fluctuates between 126.85 and -23.15 °C every 4.3 hours), the dehydration of clay minerals, and the impact of micrometeorites on the asteroid’s surface.

Quite the surprise: Scientists had no idea Bennu could eject debris. The activity needed to launch these particles is “about the same energy you need to break a cracker,” says study coauthor Humberto Campins of the University of Central Florida and a member of the OSIRIS-REx team. It registers too low for our ground- and space-based instruments to detect. OSIRIS-REx was only able to detect it because it’s close enough to Bennu. 

What it means for future missions: Objects like Bennu are very attractive for exploration, since they’re rich in organic molecules, and in water that could be mined. So it stands to reason that other asteroids we want to explore that share Bennu’s composition might end up being active as well, creating a new safety concern for these kinds of missions.

The observed activity on Bennu is not hazardous to the OSIRIS-REx mission, but it’s unclear if there might be periods of higher activity we haven’t seen yet. Bennu, and other asteroids like it, might go through periods where they spew up particles sizes and amounts that threaten the safety of most spacecraft.

What’s next: OSIRIS-REx will continue to survey Bennu, and eventually attempt to collect samples from the surface. It will then make its way back to Earth and deliver those samples back to Earth in September 2023.

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