Science  02 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5778, pp. 1307b
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5778.1307b

PROLIFIC BUT HOMELESS. Scientists are protesting a decision to close the lab of a renowned pharmacologist at the National Institutes of Health as part of a budget-cutting exercise.

John Daly, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, has discovered hundreds of bioactive alkaloids in the skin of poisonous frogs, such as epibatidine, a potent painkiller. Daly retired in 2003 at age 69 but continues to work with two staff scientists at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Despite working without pay, Daly co-authored 13 papers in the past year.

But last month, NIDDK Scientific Director Marvin Gershengorn decided to shutter Daly's program as part of a possible 20% cut in the NIDDK intramural operating budget for fiscal year 2007. Gershengorn declined comment, but NIDDK spokesperson Elizabeth Singer says an emeritus scientist with lab “privileges” is “unusual.” The institute is closing at least two other labs, including that of chemist Donald Jerina.

More than two dozen scientists from around the world have urged NIH to keep Daly's lab open. “He's active as hell,” says Cornell University chemical ecologist Thomas Eisner. “It's shortsighted.” Singer says “options … are being explored” for Daly to continue his research at NIH.

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