ScienceScope

Science  28 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5709, pp. 495
  1. New Chief for Heart Institute

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    The new director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is a recent recruit well-versed in both clinical and basic research. Cardiologist Elizabeth Nabel, 52, now chief of clinical intramural research, will succeed Claude Lenfant, who retired in August 2003 after 21 years as head of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) third largest institute.

    Nabel came to NHLBI in 1999 from the University of Michigan along with her husband, Gary Nabel, who was hired to head NIH's new vaccine research center. Nabel, who works on vascular biology and gene therapy for damaged hearts, is a “superb scientist … in an excellent position” to steer both basic, translational, and clinical research, says molecular cardiologist Roberto Bolli of the University of Louisville in Kentucky, a member of NHLBI's advisory council. Nabel declined comment through a spokesperson, as her appointment had not been announced at press time.

  2. Novel AIDS Vaccine Trial

    1. Jon Cohen

    An unusual AIDS vaccine study that began this week in seven countries aims to reduce the time needed to gauge its merit.

    The 5-year study, being conducted by Merck and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), will recruit 1500 people at high risk of contracting the virus and will evaluate whether the vaccine can prevent sexual transmission or keep HIV levels low for those infected. Whereas clinical studies for a vaccine at this stage of development typically assess whether it triggers immune responses and is safe, this trial tries to get an early peek at whether the vaccine actually works. Researchers hope that by cutting to the chase, they can better judge whether it warrants a larger, more expensive test. The study will test the value of the body's ability to produce “killer cells” against HIV-infected cells.

    “It's exciting,” says Susan Buchbinder, principal investigator for HVTN and an epidemiologist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. More AIDS vaccines are in the pipeline, she notes, and “it will give us an answer about this type of approach in a more efficient way.”

  3. Irish Observatory to Close

    1. Govert Schilling

    Astronomers worldwide are protesting a plan to shutter Ireland's only astronomical observatory, which has operated for 220 years.

    Dunsink Observatory, in the Dublin suburb of Castleknock, houses a historic 30-centimeter telescope and conducts research on topics such as high-energy astrophysics. Last summer, however, the board of the School of Cosmic Physics of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, which runs Dunsink, decided to close it by the end of the year (a date since pushed back, probably to spring 2005). Although its staff of 10 will be moved to a new building in Dublin, scientists worry that the government will reduce funding for astronomy once this national symbol is gone.

    Astronomers want Ireland's Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin, to persuade the publicly funded institute to reconsider its decision and to consult with staff on the future of the observatory. “Dunsink might be used for outreach purposes, but without our involvement, it probably won't happen in the best possible way,” says observatory director Evert J. A. Meurs. Meanwhile, 440 astronomers from around the world have signed an online petition to save the observatory (www.petitiononline.com/save_obs) and planned to present it to Hanafin this week.

  4. Rescue for Italian Synchrotron

    1. Susan Biggin

    ROME—The Italian government last week approved a slate of measures to support science, including a bailout of the country's Elettra light source.

    The cash-strapped synchrotron in Trieste, which produces x-rays to probe matter, had been overlooked in the government's 2005 budget, triggering a recent strike (Science, 14 January, p. 192). Last week, however, the Council of Ministers approved an annual increase of $18 million for the next few years. “The decree meets our requirements,” says Sincrotrone Chair Carlo Rizzuto, adding that it “acknowledges the value” of the lab.

    The decree also provides for the state to act as guarantor to a high-priority $78 million European Investment Bank loan for construction of a free-electron laser at Elettra. There is good cheer for academic researchers, too: Thanks to $560 million added to university budgets, newly hired researchers can earn a full salary after 1 year instead of three. The change will boost their income by about 30%. Research minister Letizia Moratti calls the move “another way to keep the best youngsters in our universities.”