Science  27 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5726, pp. 1237
  1. Manhattan Showered With Stem Cell Gifts

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    Philanthropists are pouring money into three New York City biomedical institutions to support stem cell research.

    The latest gift comes from the Starr Foundation, which is dividing $50 million over 3 years among Rockefeller University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Last year Weill received $15 million from the Houston, Texas-based Ansary Foundation to establish a center for stem cell therapeutics, and earlier this month Mount Sinai School of Medicine took in $10 million from donors for its own stem cell institute (Science, 13 May, p. 937).

    The Starr Foundation was established by Cornelius Vander Starr, founder of the financial and insurance companies called American International Group Inc. Its Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative will focus on a wide range of stem cell projects, involving cells from embryos, adult tissues, and cancerous tumors, says Sloan-Kettering President Harold Varmus. He says the gift is already influencing recruitments at Sloan-Kettering, and he hopes it might lessen the possible lure of California's $3 billion in public funding. “We don't want people leaving or young people to ignore the fact that we have a lot of support for this research in New York,” he says. Weill Dean Antonio Gotto hopes some of the funds will allow researchers at its large fertility clinic to produce new stem cell lines from cloned human embryos.

  2. Quality Check for Australia's Research

    1. Jacopo Pasotti

    Australia is beginning a $2.8 million study of how the government funds research that is expected to put greater emphasis on scientific productivity.

    As the first step in the process, a government-appointed panel has been asked to develop a method of ranking university departments based on the impact of publications by faculty members. The panel, led by Gareth Roberts of Wolfson College in Oxford, U.K., is looking closely at a U.K. system adopted in 1986 as well as reviewing comments from stakeholders. A 6-month trial of the new system will begin in September.

  3. New Reporting Regs for Globe-Trotting Diseases

    1. Martin Enserink

    The world has a new set of rules for dealing with diseases, such as flu or SARS, that cross borders easily. On Monday, the World Health Assembly, an annual meeting of 192 governments in Geneva, Switzerland, approved regulations making it mandatory for countries to detect and respond to infectious diseases within their borders, notify the World Health Organization (WHO) within 24 hours of any outbreak that could threaten other countries, and collaborate in investigating and controlling such outbreaks.

    Similar International Health Regulations have existed for half a century. But even the latest version from 1981 was widely considered outdated; for one, it didn't cover newly emerging infections. The revised treaty, which will formally take effect in 2007, has been debated for more than 10 years. The issue became more urgent in 2003, when China risked a wide spread of SARS by hiding the extent of its outbreak —behavior that would violate the new rules. Although WHO has no sanctions for countries that violate the new regimen, “this gives us much clearer ground rules,” says WHO'S Max Hardiman.

  4. Embattled Berkeley Ecologist Wins Tenure

    1. Erik Stokstad

    Ignacio Chapela, an ecologist whose views on biotechnology have attracted controversy, has won tenure at the University of California, Berkeley, after appealing an earlier rejection.

    Chapela caused a stir with a 2001 report in Nature that promoter genes from genetically modified corn had been detected in traditional kinds of corn in Mexico—a finding the journal later disavowed (Science, 12 April 2002, p. 236). He also was a persistent critic of a $25 million deal with Novartis in 1998 for exclusive licensing of plant and microbial research.

    Chapela claimed that the university denied him tenure in 2003 because of his opposition to the Novartis deal (Science, 19 December 2003, p. 2065). Last month, he sued the university, claiming it had also discriminated against him because he was born in Mexico. Berkeley, meanwhile, was reexamining the case as part of an earlier consent agreement, and a nine-member panel voted thumbs-up. “This was a case in which reasonable reviewers could disagree,” says spokesperson George Strait. After learning of his victory, Chapela e-mailed supporters that he now fears tenure “may become a [self-imposed] muzzle.”

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