ScienceScope

Science  08 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5805, pp. 1525
  1. Biotech on the Cape

    1. Robert Koenig

    South Africa has pledged to spend $6 million over the next 4 years to host a new lab in Cape Town sponsored by the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), a U.N. research, training, and technology-sharing agency that now has labs in India and Italy. The new center will initially employ about 25 scientists and staff in five groups starting in May, says Dhesigen Naidoo, who represented South Africa's science ministry last week at a meeting in New Delhi, India, where ICGEB announced this decision. The center's main focus will be the molecular biology of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. South Africa's science minister, Mosibudi Mangena, said he saw it as a step “toward the development of an African biotechnology hub.”

  2. Prospecting on the Moon

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Space scientists are looking toward a February meeting in Tempe, Arizona, to discuss the lunar base tentatively planned by NASA for 2020 at the south pole of the moon. Instead of several short, Apollo-like missions, NASA wants a four-astronaut outpost that would be fully functioning by 2024. The Shackleton Crater rim offers geologists a chance to explore the 4-billion-year-old Aitken Basin and astronomers an alluring quiet zone for their radio telescopes.

  3. Growing Minds in the Desert

    1. John Bohannon

    Saudi Arabia, which spends less on research and education per capita than almost all other countries, announced last week that it will commit $2.6 billion to build the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in the desert. Undergraduate degrees in diverse fields including biotechnology and computer science will be offered beginning in 2008, with enrollment restricted to Saudis and some foreign “outstanding Muslim students,” says a Saudi official. There are no plans yet for a Ph.D. program.

    This is the latest step in a recent push for scientific development in the Arab world. But the bottleneck is not money, says Rabi Mohtar, an agricultural engineer at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who is working with the Qatar Foundation to boost science in the region. The lack of prestige and opportunities in the sciences drives the vast majority of Arab researchers abroad to study and work. However, “having big educational investments will hopefully raise the level of public awareness,” he says, and may entice Arab scientists back home.

  4. My, How That Sun Shines

    1. Robert F. Service

    The dealmaking continues for both the Scripps Research Institute and the state of Florida. Last week, Scripps officials announced a $100 million pact with Pfizer that grants the world's largest drugmaker access to 47% of the institute's discoveries for the next 5 years. The agreement succeeds a similar deal with the Swiss pharma giant Novartis that expires at the end of this year. According to Scripps spokesperson Keith McKeown, the difference between the deals is that Pfizer scientists will have an opportunity to take a more hands-on role in ongoing research. But McKeown says, “we still have complete control over the direction of our research.”

    The deal could be a boon for Florida, which paid $310 million to lure the California research giant to open a branch in Palm Beach County. According to the terms of that deal, Scripps must pay Florida 15% of the royalties it earns on technology developed in the state, up to $155 million. Meanwhile, Florida's pharma connections may also be growing. This week, Scripps's Florida outpost and two south Florida universities are hosting a delegation of 25 Swiss scientists, business executives, and government officials looking to expand their collaborations with bioscientists in the Sunshine State.

  5. Progress for Bioethics Rules

    1. D. Yvette Wohn

    SEOUL—Hoping to close loopholes exploited during the Woo Suk Hwang cloning scandal, South Korea's National Bioethics Committee has approved stronger regulations on sperm and egg donations for research and medical use. The committee is still mulling a proposal to ban researchers from transplanting human stem cells into nuclei-removed embryos of humans or other primates.

    Scientists say that nuclear transfer could lead to insights into cures for spinal cord injury or diseases such as Parkinson's. Activists fear that such research could allow researchers to create chimeras. Less-contentious provisions include prohibiting minors or women who have never given birth from donating eggs. Also banned are donations in which coercion between donor and recipient is possible—such as a junior researcher donating for an experiment, as had occurred in Hwang's lab. Although barred from selling eggs, donors can be compensated for their expenses. After the committee decides whether to propose a nuclear-transfer ban, the rules would require approval from the National Assembly before they become law.