Science  03 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5689, pp. 1385

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  1. Japanese Researcher Sues Government Over Detention

    TOKYO—A Japanese researcher who faced U.S. charges of economic espionage has sued the Japanese government for detaining him for 57 days. Microbiologist Takashi Okamoto says he was “unjustly” held while a Japanese court considered a U.S. extradition request. He is seeking $390,000 in compensation.

    The U.S. Justice Department wants to try Okamoto on charges of stealing genetic materials from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, where he worked as an Alzheimer's researcher. But the Tokyo High Court rejected the extradition request last March (Science, 2 April, p. 31).

    Meanwhile, Okamoto is fighting another lawsuit. Former friend Hiroaki Serizawa is suing Okamoto for $770,000 in legal fees and damages relating to his entanglement in Okamoto's case. Serizawa, then a research biologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, temporarily stored Okamoto's samples and later pleaded guilty to U.S. perjury charges. Serizawa says the incident ruined his research career. Okamoto says that “there is no connection between the two cases.”

  2. California Acts on Ocean Policy Reports

    California has become the first state to pass legislation implementing major ocean policy recommendations made in two recent reports (Science, 23 April, p. 496). The state legislature late last month approved the California Ocean Protection Act (COPA), which creates the Cabinet-level Ocean Protection Council to coordinate research and data sharing across agencies and establish a trust fund for marine-related programs.

    Those ideas emerged directly from recent reports by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the private Pew Oceans Commission, notes Andrew Rosenberg, a member of the U.S. commission and a professor of natural resources at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. California is one of the nation's most important coastal states, and COPA “has the potential to be a leading force in ecosystems-based management in the ocean,” he says.

    California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the bill by the end of this month. Analysts predict that the trust fund, which will draw money from state oil and gas royalties, will start life with $10 million.

  3. U.S. Releases Draft Plan for Dealin With Pandemic Flu

    Mounting concerns about H5N1 avian flu, which has devastated poultry farms in Asia and killed two dozen people (see p. 1385), spurred the release last week of the United States' first pandemic influenza preparedness plan.

    The avian flu outbreak has experts worried that the H5N1 virus could morph into a lethal strain passed from person to person. The draft document from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) describes plans to increase surveillance for such potentially deadly flu strains, expand vaccine manufacturing, stockpile antivirals, and coordinate response to any outbreak ( THe plan “draws up on the wealth of experience” that the United States has gained dealing with SARS and other threats, says HHS Secretary Tommy Thiompson.

    But the plan leaves open for discussion details such as who should receive limited supplies of flu drugs and vaccines. “There will be some tough choices,” says Bruce Gellin, director of HHS'S National Vaccine Program Office. The deadline for comments is 26 October.

  4. In Settlement, Glaxo Agrees to Publicize Drug Trial Data

    Just 12 weeks after New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer charged British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) with fraud in selling drugs for children, his office has settled the case out of court. Glaxo, accused of understating the clinically documented risks of suicide among youthful users of its antidepressant Paxil (Science, 11 June, p. 1576), last week agreed to pay a $2.5 million fine and provide public Web access to clinical trial results from all of its marketed medicines. In general, GSK pledged to post study results for approved drugs within 10 months of the trial's completion.

    The settlement “holds GSK to a new standard of disclosure” that will “set an example for the entire pharmaceutical industry,” Spitzer's office crowed in a 26 August announcement. GSK noted in a terse statement that it paid the $2.5 million simply “to avoid the high costs and time required to defend” against Spitzer's charges, and that it was releasing clinical data “voluntarily … in response to public concern.”