Science  17 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5691, pp. 1691

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  1. NCI Backs Nano in Cancer War

    National Cancer Institute (NCI) officials this week announced plans to spend $144 million over 5 years on nanotechnology efforts to fight cancer (Science, 23 July, p. 461). About $90 million will be used to establish at least five new multi-university centers of excellence over the next year aimed at using nanosized particles to create novel diagnostic, therapeutic, and imaging techniques. Another $38 million will flow to individual investigators and $16 million to training awards.

    NCI has supported nano projects for the last 6 years, and most of the initiative's funds will come from repackaging existing efforts and terminating current programs, says NCI deputy director Anna Barker. Still, the time is right for such an effort, says chemist Richard Smalley of Rice University in Houston, Texas. Nanotechnology gives researchers a bevy of new approaches to targeting specific cells within the body, he says: “There is a brave new world out there for diagnosis and treatment.”

  2. Panel Recommends Keeping German Cloning Ban, for Now

    Germany's federal Bioethics Council has recommended that the nation maintain its moratorium on all forms of cloning—for now. But although the 25-member council last week unanimously called for a worldwide ban on reproductive cloning, its members split on the question of allowing research cloning, which uses nuclear transfer to develop stem cells from human embryos.

    In the council's 13 September statement, one group of five members rejected all cloning research, calling it morally unjustified. A second group of 12 members said that research cloning should be allowed under strict rules. Five members said that research cloning should be prohibited for now but could be justified in the future if advances make it more likely to produce treatments. Despite the apparent majority for allowing cloning research (Science, 20 August, p. 1091), the panel urged the government to maintain its current moratorium.

    Panel member and Nobel laureate Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen says she is pleased with the compromise. Although she supports regulated cloning research, she says current techniques are so inefficient in animal experiments that “it is premature” to move to human cells. Science minister Edelgard Bulmahn praised the report, saying she sees no reason to change Germany's embryo- protection law.

  3. Japan Revises Mad Cow Plans

    Japan is scaling back its policy of testing all slaughtered cows for “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE). But its new plan to test only slaughtered cows older than 20 months will still be the world's most stringent BSE screening program.

    The new policy, set to begin later this month, was a compromise, says Takashi Onodera, a molecular biologist at the University of Tokyo and a member of a government advisory group. Europe and the United States test cows that are 30 months and older, he notes, in part because scientists believe younger cows haven't accumulated enough BSE-causing prions to be picked up by current tests. Japan's Finance Ministry also wanted to cut back on “useless testing” to trim the $30 million to $40 million annual cost, but the Ministry of Health and consumer groups were reluctant to raise the cutoff age any higher because Japan has found the disease in 21- and 23-month-old cows.

  4. FDA Panel Approves ADHD Study

    A controversial study that would expose healthy children to a stimulant should proceed, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ethics panel recommended last week. The pediatric ethics subcommittee decided that the study, on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is ethically acceptable. But it urged sponsors to offer less compensation to enrolled families, saying a proposed $570 payment might unduly influence parents who needed the money.

    The ADHD study is funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by child psychiatrist Judith Rapoport. It raised red flags among reviewers because scientists wanted to enroll both healthy children and those with ADHD, all aged 9 to 18 (Science, 20 August, p. 1088). All subjects would receive one dose of dextroamphetamine, a drug used to treat ADHD, and then undergo a magnetic resonance imaging scan to see whether the brains of healthy and ADHD children respond differently to the drug.

    The subpanel's recommendation now goes to the full pediatric advisory committee, which will then make a formal recommendation to FDA.