Science  24 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5692, pp. 1885

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  1. Senate Gives NIH 4% Boost

    A Senate appropriations committee last week approved a bill giving the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a 2005 budget of $28.9 billion, a 4%, $1.1 billion boost over 2004's. Although modest, the raise surpasses the meager 2.6% increase approved by the House last July, in line with President Bush's request. “We're obviously pleased,” says David Moore, head of governmental relations for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

    The Senate committee was silent, however, on several controversial moves taken by the House, which had voted to ban future funding for two NIH psychology studies and put a 50-person limit on the number of Department of Health and Human Services staff members sent to foreign meetings. It also recommended that NIH post copies of grantees' research articles in a public archive within 6 months of publication by a journal (Science, 10 September, p. 1548). Any further action on these issues, and NIH's ultimate budget number, won't be settled until the two bodies negotiate a final spending bill, which could take months.

  2. A Cancer Genome Project?

    An expert panel offering biotechnology advice to National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Andrew von Eschenbach expects to propose an ambitious new project that would identify all major cancer genes.

    The task force, led by Eric Lander of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Lee Hartwell of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, gathered advice from about 50 scientists who met in focus groups from March to June. Last week, Lander told the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) that the group's draft plan includes a “Human Cancer Genome Project” that would analyze tissue samples to compile a database of all genes that are mutated in at least 5% of major cancers. “It is a finite problem,” he said.

    A second project would pose specific challenges in detection, such as using nipple fluid to detect breast cancer. The panel also wants NCI to set up a permanent technology panel that would produce “actionable” items with timelines and budgets, Lander said. He expects to present the full report at NCAB's December meeting.

    Finding money for new initiatives could be difficult. But NCAB Chair John Niederhuber, an oncologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, says that by presenting Congress with a “business plan,” NCI “might be able to tell a very powerful story.”

  3. Blair Turns Up Heat on Climate Change

    LONDON—U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged to make climate change “a top priority” during Britain's presidency of the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrialized nations next year. Current global commitments to reducing carbon dioxide emissions are “insufficient,” Blair said in a speech last week, warning that shifts in climate threaten “catastrophic changes for our world.”

    Blair's G8 strategy aims to build consensus on basic climate science and on ways of accelerating the research and technology needed to meet the threat. As a first step, the U.K.'s Hadley Centre in Exeter will host an international conference next February to consider how much greenhouse gas is too much. But scientists can only identify the likely consequences of warming, warns climate researcher Michael Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich. Society and policymakers, he says, must decide what level of climate change is “dangerous.”

  4. UCSF Faces Animal Charges

    As the fourth-largest recipient of NIH funds and landlord for thousands of research animals, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has long been a target of animal activists. Now, it is a target of charges by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Last week, UCSF officials opened the San Francisco Chronicle and discovered that USDA is charging the university with 60 violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including operating on a lamb without anesthesia and depriving monkeys of water. “The gravity of [UCSF's] violations is great,” USDA alleges, detailing problems with animal housing and veterinary care over a 2-year period between 2001 and 2003. The paper received the complaint from In Defense of Animals, an animal-rights group.

    UCSF says it still hasn't received the complaint, which a USDA official says was sent by certified mail on 3 September. But in a statement, the university promised an “in-depth” review of the charges. It said that it had already addressed all of the problems and denied that UCSF researchers had operated on a lamb without anesthesia. The university has just received fresh accreditation for its lab animal facilities, they add. UCSF has 20 days to respond to USDA's charges.