ScienceScope

Science  01 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5497, pp. 1665
  1. Global Vision

    Australia's national research agency, CSIRO, has a new chief. Metallurgist Geoff Garrett, currently head of South Africa's science agency, will succeed Malcolm McIntosh, who died this year.

    Garrett says he will put a priority on expanding the reach of CSIRO's $450 million research program by forging alliances with multinational companies and sister institutes in other nations. Such partnerships could bring a particular payoff in technology transfer to industry, as “there are simply not enough large Australian companies to take advantage of what CSIRO has to offer,” says acting CEO Colin Adam.

    Garrett also takes a dim view of suggestions to break up CSIRO. The institute employs 6700 people and tackles everything from running the Southern Hemisphere's largest radio telescope to developing new mining and farming techniques. Keeping CSIRO intact, he says, will be essential to producing the multidisciplinary innovations—such as new bioinformatics software—that will help Australia keep pace in the new global economy.

  2. Microbes for Peace

    CREDIT: WOLFGANG KAEHLER/CORBIS

    Former Soviet bioweapons researchers are teaming up with a young U.S. biotech firm to hunt for exotic organisms in Russia. Fueled by $1 million in start-up money from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the partners will set up the Ecological Biotrade Center to scour Russian ecosystems for interesting organisms in such locations as Lake Baikal (above), the Volga River, and the Kamchatka Peninsula. The players include Diversa Corp. of San Diego, the Institute of the Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms in Pushchino, south of Moscow, and three other Russian institutes. Diversa, known for collecting the DNA of a heat-tolerant microbe found in a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park, has sent or plans to send bioprospectors to Alaska, Australia, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Iceland, Indonesia, and Mexico. The potential applications span everything from pharmaceuticals, to agriculture, to industrial chemistry, says spokesperson Hillary Theakston. DOE's William Toth says the department wants to keep potential bioweapons experts employed in peaceful work and help them find a sustainable source of income. The work will start next month.