Biologist Named Russia's Science Minister

The appointment of a physicist-turned-molecular biologist as Russia's new science minister could help the nation's natural scientists grab a bigger slice of the funding pie. Last week, Prime Minister Evgeny Primakov tapped Mikhail Kirpichnikov, 53 and a veteran science administrator, for the top policy post despite opposition from some physicists and chemists, who currently garner the lion's share of Russia's science spending.

Kirpichnikov earned his doctorate at the Moscow Physical and Technological Institute before taking up a career in molecular biology at several prestigious institutes. Despite working for years as a wonk, Kirpichnikov has kept one foot in the research world, heading a lab in the Russian Academy of Sciences' Bioengineering Center. His background, says Mark van Montagu of the University of Gent in Belgium, could spell rising fortunes for Russia's struggling young biotech industry.