Science  11 Nov 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5750, pp. 955

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  1. Hot on the Toxin Trail

    1. Elizabeth Pennisi

    David Schwartz, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has previewed a proposed $4 million program that will spur the development of new technologies to detect, measure, and track toxins both in people and in the environment. If all goes as planned, the Exposure Biology Initiative will develop sensor badges or bracelets to give researchers more precise data linking toxins to health. The plan also calls for techniques that will monitor protein-toxin interactions that may serve as early markers of problems, he reported at last week's Environmental Epigenomics Conference in Durham, North Carolina. Schwartz is setting up a meeting this winter to home in on specific goals, and he hopes to get the initiative up and running in 2006.

  2. The Endless Battle Over Stem Cells

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    Advocates for human embryonic stem (hES) cell research are applauding a veto last week by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle of a bill that would have banned all forms of human nuclear transfer research. But it's no time to relax, says Sean Tipton of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, an hES cell research lobby group: The issue is heating up in at least three more states.


    In Florida, groups are collecting signatures for competing amendments to the state constitution. One would make available $200 million in state grants for research on hES cells; the other would ban state funding for work that “involves the destruction of a living human embryo.” Both initiatives must collect 600,000 signatures and be approved by the state Supreme Court to make it onto the November 2006 ballot. In Missouri, where several legislative attempts to limit hES cell research have been defeated, former U.S. Senator John Danforth (R-MO) is heading a committee to collect 150,000 signatures to put a constitutional amendment on next fall's ballot that would specifically allow hES cell and nuclear transfer research. In Ohio, which in 2003 became one of the first states to fund hES cell work with state money, several bills are pending that would limit or even ban such research. “I imagine it will be a busy winter,” Tipton says.

  3. Europe to Cut Lab Animal Tests

    1. Xavier Bosch

    European governments and industry plan to reduce animal testing and develop better alternatives. On 7 November, the European Commission (EC) and leading industry associations agreed to cut the number of animals used for basic research, toxicology, and quality control of health products from 11 million a year to 9 million by 2007.

    Although lean on specifics, the agreement should also help coordinate research activities to develop animal-friendly methods, such as cell cultures and computer modeling. The parties will work together to facilitate the official validation of methods and ease the regulatory acceptance process. “We have never before had the opportunity to work together in such an integrated manner,” says Alain Perroy of the European Chemical Industry Council.

    The EC has promised to add an unspecified amount to the $16 million it already spends each year on alternative testing methods.

  4. U.S. Science Budgets Emerge

    1. Eli Kintisch

    A month into the new fiscal year, the 2006 budget is finally taking shape, and U.S. science lobbyists are cautiously optimistic. Under a consensus bill passed by a joint House-Senate committee this week, the Department of Energy's Office of Science would receive $3.63 billion, a 1% rise over 2005 and $170 million more than the White House requested in February. Funding for nuclear bunker-buster research sought by the Pentagon was not granted, and the National Ignition Facility superlaser at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California escaped a Senate attempt to close it.

    Lobbyists also cheered continuation of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program, seen as corporate welfare by congressional critics, and a 9% boost to the president's request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to $3.9 billion. NASA will get $16.5 billion, the requested amount, and $260 million more than last year, although Administrator Michael Griffin told lawmakers last week that a shuttle shortfall of up to $5 billion could eat into applied research.

    One last concern is a feared 11th hour across-the-board rescission to make room for disaster relief and the Iraq war. “I've seen people saying everybody has to take their medicine,” says Robert Boege of the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America.