Science  15 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5695, pp. 387

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  1. $60 Million Imaging Initiative to Track Alzheimer's

    A 5-year, $60 million public-private research project launched this week will explore whether brain imaging can be used to track the development of early Alzheimer's disease.

    The Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative will follow up on small studies suggesting that magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography can be used to forecast when individuals with early signs of memory loss will develop Alzheimer's. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) and other federal sponsors are putting up about two-thirds of the money; the rest will come from drug companies and nonprofit groups. Fifty sites will enroll 800 adults, some with no signs of disease, some with mild cognitive impairment, and some with early Alzheimer's, and track them for up to 3 years. The lead investigator is Michael W. Weiner of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of California, San Francisco.

    The study is meant to collect baseline data—not test treatments—although some patients will likely be taking Alzheimer's medications, says NIA neuroscientist Neil Buckholtz. NIA director Richard Hodes hopes the initiative will be a “landmark study.”

  2. CITES Cuts Caviar Exports

    A United Nations conservation agency has cut exports of caviar (sturgeon eggs) from the Caspian Sea region. But last week's move by the 166-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) disappointed environmentalists, who say the agency backed away from doing more to protect sturgeon stocks, which have dwindled by as much as 90% in some areas.

    CITES says five Caspian nations— Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan—can export 113 metric tons of caviar, down 20% from last year. But CITES said next year's quota could be bigger if the nations make greater efforts to control poachers, who experts say produce up to five times more caviar than legal fishers. Earlier, CITES officials had threatened to bar exports unless nations did more to document and control poaching (Science, 10 September, p. 1547).

    “CITES has flip-flopped under pressure by Caspian states and the caviar industry,” says Vikki Spruill of SeaWeb, a conservation group based in Washington, D.C. But CITES deputy secretary Jim Armstrong says, “the new approach … gives the governments a strong economic stake in tackling illegal fishing.”

  3. Voters Warm to California Stem Cell Measure

    A new poll suggests that voter support for California's Proposition 71 is strengthening. But a few key organizations have decided not to back the measure, which would issue $3 billion in state bonds to fund human embryonic stem cell work in the state (Science, 10 September, p. 1544).

    A Field Poll of 549 likely voters taken at the end of September showed 46% in favor of the measure, with 39% opposed. (The poll had a 3.5% margin of error.) That's up from a near tie in an earlier poll, and pollsters found that voters familiar with the measure supported it by a wider (58–34) margin, suggesting that a multimillion- dollar ad campaign by backers is paying off.

    But two influential groups have declined to endorse the measure, citing cost concerns. The San Mateo County Medical Association late last month withdrew an earlier endorsement, officially becoming neutral. And the San Francisco Bay Area's largest biotechnology industry association, BayBio, also opted not to take a position. BayBio “supports the elimination of all federal restrictions currently limiting stem cell research,” it said in a statement. But group president Matt Gardner told reporters that some members of BayBio's board worried that the bonds could saddle California with debt and prevent future tax breaks for companies.

  4. No Meeting of the Minds at Harvard on Women Faculty

    They may have broken bread together last week, but Harvard faculty members didn't much enjoy their conversation with President Lawrence Summers and Dean William Kirby over declining numbers of women being offered tenure. “Their reaction was like that of an elephant that's been bitten by a mosquito,” says a biologist, one of 50 women at the 6 October luncheon arranged after the group aired its complaints (Science, 17 September, p. 1692). Summers took a decidedly anti-affirmative action stance at the meeting, says the participant, who requested anonymity, telling the group that “Harvard could not make hires based on anything other than pure merit.”

    The women have formed a Senior Faculty Caucus for Gender Equality to press their case for more competitive salaries and the inclusion of at least one woman on departmental search committees. Kirby says he will soon be writing to the faculty on “how I believe we can best search for a talented and diverse faculty.”