ScienceScope

Science  11 Aug 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5788, pp. 745
  1. Now Available: H5N1 Sequences

    Indonesia last week reversed itself and announced that it would put all sequence data from human H5N1 influenza patients into the public domain. Scientists say the move will help them understand how the disease is spreading.

    Indonesia's samples had been sequenced by World Health Organization collaborating labs at the University of Hong Kong and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, and placed in a password-protected influenza database at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico with limited access. Indonesia was one of several countries that resisted wider circulation of the data, a position that angered influenza researchers (Science, 3 March, p. 1224).

    Last week, the Indonesian government reversed its position and had the password protection removed, reportedly after pressure from the Indonesian Academy of Sciences. “I'm very happy,” says Ilaria Capua, an Italian bird flu researcher campaigning for broader access. “I hope this will stimulate other countries to move in the same direction.”

  2. Taiwan Pours It On

    Taiwan's National Science Council (NSC) has approved a $2.6 billion science budget for 2007 that puts the country on a trajectory to match global leaders in its level of research spending. “Being a small island without natural resources, Taiwan is in great need of R&D [for] the knowledge-based economy,” says NSC's Chien-Jen Chen, an epidemiologist at Academia Sinica, the nation's top research institution. Chen has called for a 10.8% increase next year, which is expected to be adopted this fall by national legislators.

    Recent research spending increases have outpaced overall governmental spending and economic growth for the past 6 years, propelling Taiwan's research investment to 3% of the country's gross domestic product by 2008. “We all feel very highly supported,” says Cheng-Ting Chien, deputy director of Academia Sinica's Institute of Molecular Biology.

    The new budget benefits all sectors, with special attention to mission-oriented programs in regenerative energy, earth sciences and astronomy, industrial-academic collaborations, avian and pandemic flu, and stem cells. Chen says all projects will be subject to peer review.

  3. Polish Your Stethoscopes

    Singapore has spent $1 billion over the past 6 years to become a bioscience research powerhouse (Science, 30 August 2002, p. 1470). Now it is turning to clinical research and drug development, with a 5-year, $1.5 billion spending plan. The effort, to be vetted next week by the new Biomedical Sciences Executive Committee, draws in the Ministry of Health, extending the basic research initiative to diagnostic tests, drugs, medical treatments, and vaccines. “We will build on the basic sciences,” vows Andre Wan, director of A*STAR's Biomedical Research Council. Singapore's universities and a new National Research Foundation are planning their own spending boosts.

  4. Tax Credit Languishes

    For the second time this year, Congress has failed to extend a popular tax credit meant to stimulate corporate spending on research and development. Legislators removed it from a package of tax cuts in May but promised to consider it later. But last week, Senate Republicans failed to pass a trifecta of bills that included other cuts and a higher minimum wage. The latest defeat has businesses “feeling burned,” says Monica Maguire of the National Association of Manufacturers. Industry plans to try again, however, when Congress returns next month from its August recess, heartened by President George W. Bush's strong backing of the tax credit as a key to his American Competitiveness Initiative (Science, 17 February, p. 929). “While there's not a lot of time, it's not over,” Maguire says.

  5. Gavel Falls on Biolab

    A local judge wants Massachusetts and Boston University to do a more thorough review of the environmental impact of its planned biosafety level 4 lab in downtown Boston. Last week, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Ralph Gants concluded that previous assessments hadn't put enough weight on alternative sites or worst-case scenarios for the lab, which would handle highly toxic substances on Boston University's medical campus in the city's South End.

    Opponents of the lab, who argued in a lawsuit that the area is too densely populated for such biological work, were elated. But the decision won't halt construction of the $178 million building, the future of which, Gants noted, the ruling does not address. The university intends to appeal.

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