ScienceScope

Science  21 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5452, pp. 405
  1. Booster Shot

    The Korea-based International Vaccine Institute (IVI) has received a 5-year, $40 million grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to introduce vaccines for cholera, dysentery, and typhoid in six Asian countries. The money—for studies on topics such as disease prevalence and better vaccine delivery—is aimed at convincing policy-makers in the developing world that vaccines are a cost-effective way to improve public health.

    “While the grant is large, it's small in terms of the job we face,” says John Clemens, director of the 3-year-old IVI, which carries out collaborations with U.S. and European researchers and is building labs at Seoul National University. Focusing on Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, the money targets diseases that kill nearly 2 million people worldwide every year.

  2. Mir's Nine Lives

    Slated to have been junked in the Pacific this year, the former pride of the Soviet Union is about to get a new lease on life as the loftiest outpost of capitalism. A Bermuda-based company called Mir Corp. Ltd. has raised some $20 million (primarily from telecom tycoon Walter Anderson) to renovate the creaking space station and plans to make a buck by selling time and space aboard what CEO Jeffrey Manber calls “one of the world's great destinations.” He envisions that advertising and maybe even some research will keep the station afloat. Mir Corp. will be under majority control of RKK Energia, the firm that builds much of Russia's space hardware.

  3. Try, Try Again

    As scientists duke it out over the safety of genetically modified (GM) organisms, nations have reached a frustrating impasse on crafting trade rules. Signatories to the 1992 biodiversity treaty agreed to address the environmental impact of certain GM products. After hammering away for 8 years at a new treaty on the export of GM products, negotiators will pick up the beat again next week in Montreal.

    Major ag exporters, including the United States, argue that any treaty on segregating and labeling GM crops should apply only to seeds or organisms that could escape into the wild. However, delegates from Europe—where passions over GM foods have flared (Science, 7 August 1998, p. 768)—plan to lobby for broader language that would give countries the right to ban products even in the absence of strong scientific evidence that they are unsafe. Don't count on any compromises just yet.

  4. Academic Freedom

    Japan's leading university has cautiously endorsed a government proposal to cut loose the country's 98 national universities (Science, 13 August 1999, p. 997). A University of Tokyo panel has declared that "denationalization … could help invigorate research and education" by freeing universities from regulations on administrative matters. However, it says, serious questions remain about whether funding cuts are the price of freedom—or if the government really can let go.

    The panel's stance is expected to influence the academic community during negotiations. The education ministry hopes to submit a plan to the Diet by late spring, for implementation no earlier than 2002.

  5. Chimp Deaths

    The Coulston Foundation is in hot water again. According to allegations made by In Defense of Animals (IDA), six chimpanzees have died at the primate lab since last August, when Coulston and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an agreement that resolved charges of animal-care infractions (Science, 10 September 1999, p. 1649). In its latest broadside, IDA asserts that a chimp named Donna died of an infection after carrying a dead fetus in her womb for at least 2 weeks. A USDA report from December notes that the causes of several other deaths were “not fully determined.”

    Coulston's Don McKinney says the foundation is formulating its response to the USDA report. As for Donna, he says, Coulston vets had delayed surgery to remove the fetus in order to allow her to gain strength after failed attempts to induce delivery. The NIH and USDA are investigating. Coulston could face sanctions if found negligent.

  6. Numbers Crunched

    Indian Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee's promise to boost research spending sharply by tying it to the country's GDP—initially 1% and rising to 2% over 5 years—assumed that the current spending level is 0.86% of GDP (Science, 14 January, p. 209). But the actual figure is 0.66%, Indian officials now admit.

    The revision means the government must come up with an additional $500 million—and a total increase of $1.25 billion over a current $2.5 billion budget—to meet the PM's pledge in the 2000 budget. Although a sudden rise of such proportions is unlikely, the head of the Department of Science and Technology says it should be possible to reach the 2% figure in 5 years.

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