ScienceScope

Science  17 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5533, pp. 1237
  1. Cloning Around

    Just days after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to ban all forms of nuclear transfer in human cells (Science, 10 August, p. 1025), a panel of the National Academy of Sciences heard a case for allowing research on the technique to go forward. The workshop turned into a media circus, however, as dozens of reporters showed up to hear scientists who say they want to use cloning to create a human baby.

    Although many panel members expressed grave doubts about the safety of reproductive cloning, most seemed in favor of allowing human nuclear transfer research to continue. Panel chair Irving Weissman, a cell biologist at Stanford University, said that nuclear transfer experiments with human cells could lead to better understanding of certain genetic diseases, insights into early human development, and potential therapies.

    Panel member Robert Jaffe said he hoped the panel could draw a distinction between nuclear transfer research and reproductive cloning “clear enough for senators to understand.”

  2. Science Exemption

    Science and technology gets special treatment in new budget guidelines proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Last week Koizumi announced that he plans to cut spending by 10% next year, the first overall reduction since 1999, in hopes of ending a prolonged economic slump. But science was spared: The guidelines recommend a 5% boost in funding for research, to $9.5 billion.

  3. Stem Cell Suit

    In a preview of the tangled legal claims sure to arise over rights to embryonic stem (ES) cells (see p. 1242), the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has sued to block a California company from gaining additional rights to cells it controls.

    The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), a nonprofit corporation associated with the university, holds the patent on derivation and use of primate ES cells, including human cells. But Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, California, funded efforts by Wisconsin researcher James Thomson to derive the human ES cell lines and received commercial rights to six types of cells derived from ES cells.

    The original agreement included an option to negotiate for rights to other kinds of cells, but “after good-faith negotiations we've decided not to provide additional cell types,” says WARF spokesperson Andy Cohn. Geron says they hope to meet with WARF to resolve the dispute.

  4. Genome Buzz

    An international attack on the genome of the mosquito that carries the malaria parasite (Science, 9 March, p. 1873) got a big financial boost last week—and a new partner.

    The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded $9 million to Celera Genomics Group of Rockville, Maryland, to swat the sequence of Anopheles gambiae, the primary malaria vector in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers hope the sequence will reveal molecular targets for drugs and other antimalaria strategies. The company expects to have the mosquito's 260 million DNA base pairs sequenced by spring 2002, giving researchers access to the genomes of all three players in the disease: humans, the mosquito vector, and the Plasmodium malaria parasite itself.

  5. Climate Upheaval

    Despite spending 40 years in the United States, prominent climate modeler Syukura Manabe thought he knew what to expect when he decided to return to his native Japan in 1997 and join the Frontier Research System for Global Change, whose centerpiece is a massively parallel supercomputer called the Earth Simulator. But the climate for cooperative research proved so unreceptive that the former head of the U.S. government's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, is headed back across the Pacific to his adopted home.

    “To use such a huge machine, you need a lot of scientists working together. But that type of collaboration is very hard to accomplish in Japan, especially by an outsider,” says Manabe, who earned his Ph.D. at the prestigious University of Tokyo before coming to the United States in 1958.

    Manabe, who turns 70 next month, says that he's spent a “very productive” 4 years in the Frontier program, which is funded by both the marine science and space agencies. “But it's time to slow down,” he says, “and hand over the job to a younger scientist who can communicate better with everybody involved.” He expects that person to be someone who's spent his career in Japan.

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