ScienceInsider

Breaking news and analysis from the world of science policy

  • White House Science Adviser Criticizes FIRST Act

    Displeased. White House science adviser John Holdren, shown at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, opposes a bill that he says would weaken the National Science Foundation.

    Displeased. White House science adviser John Holdren, shown at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, opposes a bill that he says would weaken the National Science Foundation.

    U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

    Pending legislation to alter the grantmaking process at the National Science Foundation (NSF) “would have an extraordinarily unfortunate effect” on the $7 billion research agency, presidential science adviser John Holdren said today.

    Holdren’s comments, made at the annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy (AAAS publishes ScienceInsider), are the first public reaction from the White House to the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, a 2-year reauthorization of NSF programs that is expected to be approved this month by the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Holdren’s words are consistent with the view of many academic leaders that the bill is part of a broader attack by congressional Republicans on federally funded science.

    “I think that NSF’s peer-review process has proven itself over the years in a manner that has made it the envy of the world,” Holdren told attendees at the AAAS forum in Washington, D.C. “Everybody else is trying to mimic the success NSF has had from funding research. I don’t think we should be trying to fix something that isn’t broken.”

  • California Stem Cell Institute Picks Industry Veteran as President

    New CIRM head Randy Mills (left) with the chair of the group's board, Jonathan Thomas.

    Hired. New CIRM head Randy Mills (left) with the chair of the group's board, Jonathan Thomas.

    Todd Dubnicoff

    After a 6-month search, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has announced a new president. Predictably, the $3 billion agency is turning to a veteran of the private sector to guide it through a phase where industry savvy will be critical to its survival.

    Randy Mills, who spent the last 10 years as CEO of the stem cell-focused Osiris Therapeutics, will take the helm as the agency plans for an uncertain financial future and attempts to move more of its research to the clinic. “We now reach a time in our CIRM life which is sort of mid-life,” the governing board’s chair, Jonathan Thomas, said at a meeting today in Burlingame, California. Since the 2004 California ballot initiative that funded the new agency with bond sales, CIRM has awarded about $1.7 billion in grants to scientists at 65 institutions, including university medical schools and private companies. But with funding from those bonds set to run out in 2017, CIRM is working to sweeten its relationship with industry and fulfill its mandate of getting therapies to patients.

    Mills fits right into that goal, Jeff Sheehy, a CIRM board member and HIV patient advocate, tells ScienceInsider. “We’re getting someone who’s actually taken a stem cell product to market.” Under Mills’s leadership, Columbia, Maryland-based Osiris became the first company to receive regulatory approval for a stem cell drug. Canadian regulators in 2012 approved Prochymal to treat complications from bone marrow transplants. “We need something like that to happen with some of our projects,” Sheehy says.

  • Bigger, Better Arctic Studies Needed, U.S. Report Argues

    It's cold up there. Arctic sea ice cover in September 2010, from data collected by a NASA satellite.

    It's cold up there. Arctic sea ice cover in September 2010, from data collected by a NASA satellite.

    NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

    A new ocean. An unpredictable landscape changing faster than any other place on Earth. And remote, impenetrable places that are hard to reach and sit in darkness for months each year. Those are just some of the things awaiting researchers who will confront the challenge of studying the Arctic in the 21st century, concludes a report released yesterday.

    “The climate, biology, and society in the Arctic are changing in rapid, complex, and interactive ways, with effects throughout the region and, increasingly, the globe,” finds the report from the National Research Council (NRC) of the U.S. National Academies. “Understanding the Arctic system has never been more important.”

    The study, sponsored by several U.S. science agencies, aims to identify “the questions that in five or ten years’ time we will kick ourselves for not asking now,” the NRC expert panel writes.

    There’s no shortage of questions emerging as the Arctic melts. Sea ice is vanishing at an alarming rate. Warm water is entering the Arctic from the Atlantic Ocean, with the impacts still unclear. The Arctic Ocean is becoming fresher due to melting ice and changes in hydrology on land. As permafrost melts, some trees are growing faster, while others find their roots inundated with liquid water. “The cascading ecological impacts (e.g. on bears, caribou, small mammals and insects) are unknown,” the report notes.

  • U.S. Science Chiefs Field Questions, Hard and Soft, at Innovation Hearing

    Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz brought an artificial hand created by a 3D printer (inset) to yesterday's U.S. Senate hearing on innovation

    Hands-on. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz brought an artificial hand created by a 3D printer (inset) to yesterday's U.S. Senate hearing on innovation, which also included testimony from National Institutes of Health chief Francis C

    U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

    Members of a key congressional spending panel voiced strong, bipartisan support yesterday for increasing the federal investment in basic research. But given the tight spending limits facing Congress this year, scientists should not expect to take that support to the bank.

    The hearing, titled “Driving Innovation through Federal Investment,” was designed to showcase the enormous payoff to society from federal funding of academic research over the decades, from the Internet and stealth technology to MRI and better weather forecasting. But the next generation of new technologies is threatened by the inconsistent pattern of support for science over the past decade, according to the heads of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, who joined presidential science adviser John Holdren in testifying at the 140-minute hearing.

    The event gave members of the Senate Appropriations Committee a chance to hurl softball questions about the causes of what a coalition of pro-science organizations has labeled an innovation deficit and what it would take to eliminate it. But despite an eagerness to describe their agencies’ plight, the five witnesses needed repeated prompting by legislators to make some of their key points.

    “I only brought one prop,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said as he pointed to a model of an artificial hand, generated by a 3D printer, that held an object resembling a baseball. “Its mesh construction is an amazing technology.”

  • First Global Drug Resistance Overview Paints Grim Picture

    WHO asked its member states to provide information on resistance in nine microbe-drug combinations. Many countries provided information for fewer than five or said they had no national data available

    Uncharted territory. WHO asked its member states to provide information on resistance in nine microbe-drug combinations. Many countries provided information for fewer than five or said they had no national data available; white spots indicate count

    WHO

    The World Health Organization (WHO) presented its first-ever global attempt to assess the spread of drug resistance today—and the results are sobering. Antimicrobial resistance "threatens the achievements of modern medicine," warns the study, which shows that high rates of resistance occur in most parts of the world.

    "Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," wrote Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director-general for health security, in a press statement.

    The study presents some data on drugs against influenza, HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, but it focuses on seven common bacteria and nine classes of drugs used to treat them—for instance, fluoroquinolones to treat Escherichia coli, which can cause urinary tract or bloodstream infections. WHO asked its 194 member states to contribute information on how common resistances to these drugs are and how they survey them; 129 countries provided information, but only 114 of those could provide data for at least one of the nine combinations of pathogen and drug.

    The report finds high rates of resistance for some of the bacteria almost everywhere. For instance, nations in all six WHO regions report that more than half of Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates have acquired resistance to third-generation cephalosporins, an important class of antibiotics. That leaves only one class of drugs, the carbapenems, to treat severe infections with the bacterium, which causes pneumonia as well as bloodstream and urinary tract infections. But even resistance against these drugs of last resort is now cropping up around the world.

  • Cell Therapy Trials Filled With 'Discrepancies'

    In a takedown of trials testing whether cell transplants could help ailing hearts, a team at Imperial College London suggests that the more discrepancies a study had, the more powerful the benefit it reported for patients with heart problems. The new paper appeared today in BMJ and its implications are nicely explored in this story in Forbes.

    The cardiac cell therapy field has experienced highs and lows in the last decade, received hundreds of millions of dollars in research money, and most recently been drawn into a university investigation. There’s been much confusion over whether and how well this cell therapy really works—with some studies reporting a robust effect, and others none at all.

  • House Spending Panel Backs NSF, NASA Science

    Europa-bound. A congressional spending panel wants to give NASA $100 million to plan a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa.

    Europa-bound. A congressional spending panel wants to give NASA $100 million to plan a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa.

    NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA science programs would receive favorable treatment in a 2015 budget bill drafted by a House of Representatives spending panel. Despite an overall cut of 1% in the overall allocation to the House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee, legislators are proposing a 3.3% boost for NSF, to $7.4 billion, and a 1% hike to NASA science programs, to nearly $5.2 billion. Those increases compare with a 1.2% increase requested by President Barack Obama for NSF and a 3.8% cut for NASA science. But the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would get less than the White House had requested.

    “This legislation reduces discretionary spending while continuing to preserve core priorities such as job creation, fighting crime, gangs, terrorism and human trafficking, bolstering cybersecurity, and boosting U.S. competitiveness through smart investments in science and space exploration," said CJS subcommittee Chair Frank Wolf in a press statement today. The panel will meet tomorrow to vote on the spending levels.

    The legislation is one of 12 appropriations bills that Republican leaders hope the entire House of Representatives will adopt by the July recess. The Democrat-led Senate hopes to do its part as well, although most Washington observers expect Congress to extend current spending levels into the 2015 fiscal year, which begins on 1 October, and then take up a permanent spending bill after the November elections.

  • Japan's Latest Stem Cell Apology

    Shinya Yamanaka

    Shinya Yamanaka

    Wikimedia/National Institutes of Health

    Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka today joined a growing crowd of Japanese stem cell scientists who have held press conferences in recent weeks to apologize for mistakes in published papers. Yamanaka discovered in 2006 a way to reprogram adult cells into embryolike ones, called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, a find that has revolutionized the stem cell field. He was honored in 2012 with the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine and is one of Japan’s most famous researchers. The iPS cell research is not in question, but a frenzy of anonymous bloggers searching for flaws in prominent researchers’ papers did find fault with one of his older publications.

    At a press conference today, he said that a paper published in 2000 contains an image that may be incorrect. Anonymous online posts first raised questions about the image, and Kyoto University has investigated the paper at Yamanaka’s request, The Wall Street Journal reports. The university found no problems with the paper’s conclusions, but Yamanaka says he no longer has the records needed to verify the image, because the experiment was done by collaborators. He said he will take it as a lesson on the importance of taking and preserving "proper notes that can be presented at any time."

  • Italian Prosecutor: Stem Cell Group Is a 'Criminal Organization'

    ROME—After a 4-year investigation, a public prosecutor in Turin has delivered a withering indictment about a controversial stem cell therapy provided by the Stamina Foundation in Italy. The report, issued on Wednesday, describes Davide Vannoni, who introduced the treatment in Italy, as the head of a criminal organization that has defrauded about a thousand patients since 2006 by administering a dangerous and unapproved treatment in exchange for money.

    Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello accuses 19 others as well; they include physicians, members of ethics committees, and directors at three public hospitals where Vannoni treated his patients, as well as the owner of a drug company, two foreign scientists, and the head of the Department of Research and Clinical Trials at AIFA, the Italian Medicines Agency.

    Vannoni has asked for up to €48,000 per treatment and €10,000 per year to store cells extracted from adults and children, the report says; his treatments exposed patients to serious risks, it concludes, including the risk of infection, severe bleeding, spinal cord injury, cancer, and ischemia. The report identifies a series of problems with the treatment. No preclinical and clinical studies were done, for instance; Vannoni's team processed, handled, and injected cells under nonsterile conditions; and “bovine serum with no specified origin” was used as a culture medium. Patients "were turned into guinea pigs,” the report states.

    A judge must now decide whether the accusations warrant a trial. ScienceInsider could not reach Vannoni for comment. In the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Vannoni said that he had expected the charges but said they were unfounded. “I have the documents to prove it and I’ll defend my self; 180 civil judges have already proven us right" by ruling that patients have a right to get the treatment, the paper quoted him as saying.

  • Britain to Build $340 Million Polar Research Ship

    Ship shape. Artist's rendition of the United Kingdom's planned polar research ship.

    Ship shape. Artist's rendition of the United Kingdom's planned polar research ship.

    British Antarctic Survey

    In another headline-grabbing announcement of new research infrastructure spending, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced today that Britain would build a new £200 million ($340 million) polar research ship by 2019. The new ship, as yet unnamed, will allow researchers to travel deeper into the Arctic and Antarctic, deploy robotic submarines and underwater gliders, and have extensive onboard laboratories. It will also service bases in the British Antarctic Territory.

    “Our new £200 million polar flagship will be the most advanced oceanographic research vessel in the world. It will be carrying the latest cutting edge technologies. And will mean scientists can do research for more of the year, can reach areas they’ve never been able to penetrate before, and will be able to bring back huge amounts of data on the ocean and marine biology,” Osborne said during a speech in Cambridge.

  1. « 1
  2. ‹ previous
  3. 142
  4. 143
  5. 144
  6. 145
  7. 146
  8. 147
  9. 148
  10. next ›
  11. 576 »

Follow News from Science

Latest News