Science  28 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5748, pp. 601

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  1. India Fissions Its Nuclear Research

    1. Richard Stone

    U.S. and Indian officials gathered in New Delhi last week to start delicate negotiations over how India will separate its vast nuclear establishment into military and civilian components. In July, the allies agreed to share nuclear technology and expertise, an accord that promises to make India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a full-blown member of the atomic club.

    But which Indian facilities and researchers will come in from the cold remains a thorny issue. “There is an internal debate going on within India about where to go with this,” says Harvard nonproliferation expert Matthew Bunn. Although some facilities—such as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai—would likely stay secret, there will be a tug of war over others, including the fast breeder facility in Kalpakkam. Under the new agreement, facilities declared civilian would come under international safeguards and enable scientists to collaborate. U.S. envoy Nicholas Burns, who was in Delhi, warned that the separation plan could take years to implement. Finalizing the much-touted nuclear deal itself will require a series of changes to U.S. law and international rules, which the United States and India hope to see happen by early next year.

  2. U.S. Restricts 1918 Flu Virus

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    As expected, the federal government has declared the resurrected 1918 pandemic influenza virus a select agent and restricted its use. The government is also exploring whether other viruses containing any genes from the 1918 flu should be controlled.

    Three weeks ago, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, and elsewhere reported that they had reconstructed the complete 1918 virus, which killed up to 50 million people (Science, 7 October, 28). Announced last week by CDC, the new designation requires lab registration with CDC, strict security procedures, and FBI background checks for researchers.

    Now the agency must decide whether other viruses containing 1918 flu genes pose similar risks. “Viruses having even one 1918 gene exhibit exceptional lethality,” notes microbiologist Richard Ebright of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, in submitted comments. Even nucleic acids for 1918 flu genes should be controlled, Ebright argues.

  3. ITER Head Named

    1. Dennis Normile

    The first director-general of the $11 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is likely to be Kaname Ikeda. A University of Tokyo engineering graduate, Ikeda worked his way up through the ranks at the former Science and Technology Agency before entering Japan's diplomatic corps; he is currently ambassador to Croatia. Barring objections from other ITER partners, Ikeda's appointment will likely be formally announced at an ITER meeting in Vienna in December. European negotiators agreed after an 18-month standoff over the reactor's site to support Japan's director-general nominee; Japan in turn agreed to back the European Union's candidate site of Cadarache, France, where construction could begin by 2007.

  4. Prize for Cheap Sequencing

    1. Elizabeth Pennisi

    The first team to demonstrate a genome sequencing method costing $1000 could win a prize under consideration by the X Prize Foundation in Santa Monica, California. Announced last week at a Hilton Head, South Carolina, meeting and expected to be in the millions of dollars, the award would supplant a $500,000 pledge by the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation in 2003. The X Prize Foundation, which has previously funded spaceflight prizes, will decide next week about the new prize's future. The rules will likely demand that a contestant completely sequence 100 human genomes by the end of the decade—or sooner.

  5. Stem Cell Law Decelerated

    1. Constance Holden

    Frustrated activists are looking toward next year for a Senate vote to relax restrictions on stem cell research. In July, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) promised a prompt vote on S. 471, a measure passed by the House in May that would allow federally funded researchers to work with human embryonic stem cell lines now restricted by the White House. Lobbyists say the measure can easily pass the Senate, but hurricanes and Supreme Court nominees have blown stem cells off the calendar. Co-sponsor Arlen Specter (R-PA) said last week that Frist has now committed to bringing it to the floor before next Easter. The House bill passed 238-194 in May; President George W. Bush has threatened a veto.