Science  26 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5568, pp. 635

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  1. De-Celeration

    Biotechnology's enfant terrible—Celera Genomics in Rockville, Maryland—is mellowing with age. Last week, it formally disavowed its youthful aim of becoming a worldwide purveyor of genome news and data, a goal once proclaimed by founder and former president J. Craig Venter, who left the outfit abruptly in January. Instead, Celera is morphing into a drug R&D firm and will operate primarily as a data provider to its parent organization, Applera Corp. of Norwalk, Connecticut.

    Applera CEO Tony White announced on 22 April that an executive from within the company, Kathy Ordoñez, is being promoted to serve as president of both Celera Genomics and a subsidiary called Celera Diagnostics. White explained that an internal study concluded that the company could not profit in the long term by selling only data. So Celera's services will be combined with an online reagent and equipment supply operation to be known jointly as the Applied Biosystems Knowledge Business. White called it “a complete transformation.”

  2. Wilson Resigns

    Prominent gene therapy researcher James Wilson (below) will resign as director of the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Human Gene Therapy in Philadelphia. The decision, announced last week by Penn officials, comes 31 months after the death of an institute research subject sparked intense scrutiny of the institute's procedures and widespread debate about the adequacy of human subject protections.


    The September 1999 death of patient Jesse Gelsinger prompted federal officials to shut down eight gene-therapy trials at the institute and to consider stripping Wilson of authority to oversee research involving human subjects (Science, 12 May 2000, p. 951). Wilson's troubles—and gene therapy's dimming promise—prompted an internal Penn committee to conclude that the $13 million institute should “broaden its scientific focus to include cell-based therapies, as well as stem cell biology and molecular virology,” according to an e-mail sent to faculty members last week by medical school dean Arthur H. Rubenstein. The memo's contents were first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Wilson could not be reached for comment. In his e-mail, Rubenstein said Wilson will resign 1 July but will remain at Penn as a researcher and professor.

  3. More Than MOST

    A U.S. science delegation met this week with its Chinese counterparts in Beijing, the 10th such meeting in a process that began in 1979. The official agenda touched on ongoing cooperation in a half-dozen areas ranging from energy and agriculture to public understanding of science. But U.S. presidential science adviser John Marburger, leading the first group representing the Bush Administration, added something to the mix: a request that China make the leaders of its burgeoning research enterprise more accessible to outsiders.

    “The original agreement was with the Ministry of Science and Technology [MOST], which selects the delegation,” says Marburger. “But other ministries have thriving research programs, too, and we want to see whether this umbrella agreement has sprung any leaks and if there are better ways of doing business.”

    A MOST official said that other ministries are invited as appropriate and that the agenda dictates who will attend. But Marburger says that it might be more efficient to have all the research heavyweights at the table so the two countries could discuss “the big questions.”

  4. Academic Discourse

    Britain's House of Lords has moved to protect researchers from a controversial new export-control law. Academics feared that the law, intended to prevent the export of sensitive technologies to hostile countries, could hamper international science collaboration and training (Science, 22 February, p. 1443). Under pressure from the Association of University Teachers and Universities UK, a cross-party coalition of Lords voted last week to add language exempting routine scientific information sharing unless a researcher knew, or should have known, that the information could be used to construct weapons of mass destruction. The amendments would also prevent officials from using the law to restrict the movement of students or researchers.

    Science Minister David Sainsbury argued before the vote that the academic freedom clauses could create unwanted loopholes. But academic groups hope that the government will accept the changes when Parliament takes up the proposal later this year.