ScienceScope

Science  13 Feb 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5660, pp. 939
  1. Golden Age for French and German Research?

    PARIS—French researchers are threatening mass resignations next month if the government does not boost the nation's science effort (see p. 948). But Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin this week came up with a shiny scheme for meeting the demands: Dig into France's 3000-plus metric tons of gold reserves, estimated to be worth some $40 billion—the third largest hoard after those of the United States and Germany.

    Goosing France's research effort could produce golden eggs for its economy, Raffarin said at an 8 February Conservative Party congress. “Today's gold for tomorrow's gold,” he declared, noting that he was inspired by a similar idea endorsed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder a few days before. Schröder is in favor of using some of the Bundesbank's 3500 metric tons of gold to create a foundation to support research, he told the German newspaper Die Zeit. The Bundesbank president has already come out in favor of that plan. But it remains to be seen whether the independent Bank of France—which until now has never let anyone touch its ingots—will let a horde of angry French scientists raid its vaults.

  2. Gates Gives $83 Million for Tuberculosis Vaccines

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation this week announced an $82.9 million grant to help develop vaccines for tuberculosis (TB), which kills nearly 2 million people a year, mostly in the developing world.

    The Gates gift—which will double the research funding focused on TB vaccines—will go to the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation in Bethesda, Maryland. It will fund efficacy trials in South Africa and elsewhere of a combination of two new vaccines. One is a genetically engineered version of the traditional vaccine against the TB bacterium. The other is a vaccine made from two TB proteins that companies just began testing for safety in humans in the United States. Richard Klausner, executive director of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program, says the funds “will both build this organization and rapidly move [the vaccines] into human trials.”

  3. Quick Save for Infectious- Disease Grants at NIAID

    Infectious-disease researchers worried that their grants might get cut in order to cover a $50 million shortfall at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) can rest easy—the money will come from other programs.

    NIAID took a hit to its 2004 budget when the Senate added an earmark that raised the institute's contribution to the Global HIV/AIDS Fund by $50 million and required that the money come from the $163 million increase the agency had received for nonbiodefense research. Initially, officials considered cutting grant size, number, or duration (Science, 12 December 2003, p. 1877). But they have now found $45 million by trimming contracts and using some unspent grant funds, says NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. The result should be “minimal impact on the grantees,” Fauci says.

  4. Incyte Throws in the Towel on Genomics, Trims Workforce

    In a move that seemed all but inevitable, Incyte Corp. last week announced it will close its Palo Alto, California, genomics headquarters and eliminate 257 jobs, 57% of its total workforce. The gene discovery firm pioneered the notion of turning profits by selling genetic data to drug discovery firms and academics. The strategy seemed promising for a while, and the company's stock bolted to the dizzying high of $144 a share during the technology bubble days of 2000.

    But the company faced the stiffest competition possible: free genomic data supplied by public gene-sequencing efforts financed by governments around the globe. “As the volume of public domain data has increased, our ability to secure high-value subscriptions for our proprietary genomic data has decreased,” says John Keller, Incyte's executive vice president and chief business officer. Company revenues are expected to plummet by 80% this year, to between $7 million and $9 million, down from $47.1 million last year.

    Like other one-time genomics companies such as Celera and Myriad Genetics, Incyte has refashioned itself as a drug discovery firm. But it has a long way to go to recapture its earlier promise: The company's stock currently trades for under $10 a share.

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