Science  19 Oct 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5542, pp. 493

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  1. Sanger Secure

    The future of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre, which sequenced one-third of the human genome, is looking pretty secure. On 12 October, the trust—Britain's mammoth biomedical charity—announced that the Hinxton, U.K., institute will get $435 million over the next 5 years—enough money to take it soaring into the postgenomic era. The new funds will be divvied up among a number of priorities, including $123 million for sequencing new genomes such as those of the mouse and the zebrafish, and $30 million for recruiting new scientists. Another big winner is the Sanger's 2-year-old Cancer Genome Project, which has already identified more than 80 genetic abnormalities implicated in human cancer. Wellcome originally awarded the project $14.5 million for its first 5 years; that figure will now more than triple to $52 million. The extra funds, says project co-director Richard Wooster, “will take us into full production scale.”

  2. Pediatric Research OK in Maryland

    The Maryland Court of Appeals last week reassured worried researchers that a controversial recent decision was not intended to bar most studies in that state involving children.

    Universities and biomedical groups feared that language in the 16 August decision—involving a home lead paint cleanup study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) associated with Johns Hopkins University—would outlaw studies involving “any risk” to children (Science, 28 September 2001, p. 2367). KKI filed a motion asking the court to reconsider. On 11 October the court denied the motion but stated that “by ‘any risk’ we meant any articulable risk beyond the minimal kind of risk that is inherent in any endeavor.” Several groups that filed an amicus brief, including Hopkins and the Association of American Universities, say the clarification puts Maryland law back in accord with federal regulations allowing pediatric studies involving “minimal risk.”

    The court was not asked to reconsider its overall ruling, which found that the lead study was unethical. The case will now go to a trial court.

  3. Special Breed

    A Japanese government committee charged with either privatizing or abolishing some 163 special public corporations (Science, 7 September, p. 1743) has let those doing research off the hook. Many of the public works agencies have drawn criticism from economic reformers because they are seen as inefficient. But in a 5 October report, the committee says that it is “impossible” to alter the status of research organs such as the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center, and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute because they fulfill national policy objectives and are too dependent on government funding. “Unlike many of the other special corporations, the research labs have no sources of income,” says Shun-ichi Kobayashi, RIKEN's president.

    Even so, there may be changes afoot. The committee wants to consolidate seven research funders, including the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, into one entity. Researchers strongly prefer to have multiple funding sources. And Kobayashi says he's heard that RIKEN's accelerator physics group, which operates its own particle accelerators, could be merged into the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba. The report gives few details on such changes, however, and Kobayashi laments that “we only know what we read in the newspapers.”

  4. Technology Czar?

    The White House is rumored to have chosen one of two top deputies to science adviser John Marburger as part of a reorganization of his office. Richard Russell, a longtime congressional aide who has been serving as staff director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy since last spring, will become OSTP's head of technology, Washington insiders say. Russell, who earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Yale University in 1988, worked for the Republican-led House Science Committee from 1996 to 2000. He is closely linked to efforts to kill the Department of Commerce's Advanced Technology Program, which funnels R&D funds to tech companies.

    Russell may be part of a slimmed-down senior staff split between science and technology. Sources say that White House planners may eliminate two existing senior posts, overseeing the environment and national security-international affairs.