ScienceScope

Science  04 Aug 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5787, pp. 601
  1. Pandemic Vaccine Shows Promise

    1. Martin Enserink

    For the first time, a vaccine against the avian influenza strain H5N1 has shown promise at low doses, making it a possible candidate for use in a pandemic. In a statement issued last week, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said that a trial involving 400 healthy volunteers in Belgium revealed that two vaccine shots of just 3.9 micrograms each were enough to elicit antibodies against the flu strain.

    Previously tested pandemic vaccines, which have consisted of killed copies of a genetically engineered virus, were efficacious only at much higher doses of up to 90 micrograms injected twice (Science, 12 August 2005, p. 996). Because most flu vaccines are still produced using chicken eggs, production is difficult to scale up; that's why experts say a so-called dose-sparing vaccine such as GSK's is essential to protect large numbers of people in a pandemic. GSK declined to reveal the nature of the so-called adjuvant, an immune-boosting ingredient, in its vaccine. “We need to see more data,” says Frederick Hayden, an influenza expert at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, “but it looks like an encouraging result.”

  2. Go Deep

    1. Daniel Clery

    CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—The United Kingdom should permanently dispose of its radioactive waste in a deep geological repository, says a government-appointed panel of experts after more than 2 years of study. The U.K. government must dispose of 470,000 cubic meters of waste already in temporary storage from existing plants. Among its key points, the committee recommends research into interim storage—because it may take as long as a century to complete a deep storage site—and the immediate creation of a body to get the process rolling. Given the opposition to earlier proposed sites, the committee calls for localized incentives for potential host communities. “It will take a long time to put in place all the component parts, so now it's time to get on with the job,” says Gordon MacKerron of the University of Sussex, the panel's chair.

    Geoffrey Boulton, chair of the Royal Society's working group on radioactive-waste management, welcomed the recommendations. “There is considerably less scientific uncertainty in this approach than with other options,” he said in a statement.

  3. Monkey Business Decried

    1. Pallava Bagla

    NEW DELHI—The Indian government is investigating charges that the topflight Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore acted too hastily in releasing 20 macaques into a protected forest last month. Activists say the long-captive monkeys will likely die in the wild, and the governmental Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) opened a probe this week. IISc's primate lab is a “good facility,” says CPCSEA member Sanober Bharucha, but she says that the release was done “prematurely.” In September, CPCSEA will weigh penalties including limits on experiments and even prison time for the facility's head. IISc says it followed research guidelines, freeing only healthy animals.

  4. Climate Squall Peters Out

    1. Richard A. Kerr

    Congressional hearings on what's wrong with the science of global warming have quietly segued into less threatening channels. Last year, global-warming skeptic Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) launched an investigation of the so-called hockey-stick climate record, which portrays dramatic warming starting in the late 19th century. Scientists feared that Barton was going to politicize the science, but the matter culminated innocuously enough in two hearings late last month. He has asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to examine data-sharing policies, “especially as they related to climate change research.” He also plans to ask the National Research Council to examine questions including whether climate science peer review may be too inbred.

  5. "Open" Journal to Open

    1. Paul Webster

    TORONTO, CANADA—A new competitor journal has emerged as the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has reformed itself. Following last winter's battle over editorial independence (Science, 24 March, p. 1695), CMAJ last month restored ownership to the association and bolstered oversight; officials say the journal is enjoying a stream of top submissions. Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa, who helped CMA review its governance of the journal, calls the new reforms “a very good basis” for a fresh start.

    But former CMAJ senior editor Anne Marie Todkill says the reforms don't go far enough, calling for “a fully independent” alternative. She and five other former CMAJ editors plan this fall to launch Open Medicine, styled after open-access titles published by the Public Library of Science.

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