ScienceScope

Science  20 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5529, pp. 407
  1. Brain Drain?

    A noted U.S. fertility researcher is relocating to England in a move that some researchers say underscores the uncertainty created by the current debate over government funding of research involving embryonic stem cells (see p. 413). University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), researcher Roger Pedersen said this week that he has accepted a job at the University of Cambridge. Pedersen, who has been working with human embryonic stem cells for several years with support from Geron Corp., will maintain ties to his laboratory at UCSF, but the lab will not move with him. “I was faced with an irresistible career opportunity and the possibility of carrying out my research … with public support,” Pedersen said in a statement.

    UCSF also announced last week that Pedersen's work has been temporarily suspended until it can be moved to an off-campus building that houses no federally funded research. On 12 July, the National Institutes of Health issued a bulletin clarifying U.S. policy that derivation of embryonic stem cells, which NIH is not allowed to fund, cannot take place in a building that uses federal funds for maintenance or administration. A UCSF spokesperson said Pedersen's lab will resume its work in a new location on or before 1 August.

  2. NSF Names Education Head

    Judith Ramaley, a biologist and former college president, has been named head of the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) $800 million education directorate. Her appointment last week ended 2 years of uncertainty over the direction of the foundation's second-largest—and fastest growing—segment. On 1 August, Ramaley will replace interim chief Judith Sunley, who will become a senior adviser to NSF director Rita Colwell.

    CREDIT: ADEC

    Ramaley, 60, studied fertility and biological rhythms. Her administrative experience includes an acclaimed 6-year stint as president of Portland State University in Oregon and a rocky 4-year tenure as president of the University of Vermont in Burlington, which ended on 30 June. Her Vermont stay was clouded by a hazing scandal involving the men's hockey team.

    Ramaley says she is looking ahead to “this marvelous opportunity to view education and training from a national perspective.” Former NSFofficial Anne Petersen, vice president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, calls her “a bold, visionary academic leader, a person of action.”

  3. Malaria Vaccine Deal

    An international consortium will spend $1 million to develop a vaccine against India's major cause of malaria. A U.S.-based nonprofit, an Indian research center, and an Indian biotech company this week announced that they will team up to develop a vaccine against the mosquito-borne parasite Plasmodium vivax, which causes nearly 65% of India's malaria cases. P. vivax is also widespread in other parts of the world, although it is less lethal than P. falciparum, the other major malaria parasite.

    Under the agreement, the U.S.-based Malaria Vaccine Initiative at the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health will funnel research funds to the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi. Once researchers fine-tune the vaccine, test lots will be manufactured by Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad.

    Prior to the deal, “we had no clear way to move this vaccine candidate from the lab to manufacturing and clinical testing,” says Virander Chauhan, director of the ICGEB and head of its Malaria Research Group. Human trials are planned for late 2003.

  4. Conflicted at EPA

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to overhaul how it seeks outside scientific advice in response to a harsh review this week by the General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress's investigative arm. The GAO report, requested by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), finds “limitations” in the EPA Science Advisory Board's (SAB's) procedures for reviewing conflicts of interest that “do not adequately ensure independence and balance.” The lapses include not requesting sufficient information from panel members, lax record-keeping, and limited public disclosure. SAB staffers apparently failed to notice, for example, that a panelist reviewing an EPA report on whether 1,3-butadiene is a carcinogen had worked on a legal case for a manufacturer, and that others had done industry-funded research on the chemical.

    SAB staff director Don Barnes says the report is “useful” rather than “damning” and insists that no panel has been biased by conflicts of interest. But he says the 100-member board is planning to adopt new procedures similar to those followed by the National Academy of Sciences. For example, Barnes's office will now invite the public to suggest panelists and comment on a proposed slate of candidates.

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