ScienceScope

Science  23 Feb 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5815, pp. 1065
  1. "Hobbit" Finders to Return

    1. Elizabeth Culotta

    The team that discovered the remains of tiny humans in Indonesia's Liang Bua Cave plans to restart excavations in May. After controversy arose over whether the tiny bones were a new species or pathological Homo sapiens, Indonesian authorities closed the cave to anthropological digs. Now they are again allowing excavation, says team co-director Mike Morwood of the University of Wollongong in Australia.

    Two digs are planned: Last August, a paleoenvironmental team led by Michael Gagan of Australian National University in Canberra uncovered a chamber below Liang Bua that contains bone material. Indonesian and Australian researchers plan to return to that chamber in June, says Gagan. Morwood says he hopes they find “fresh” remains that could yield DNA.

  2. A Wave of Approval

    1. Adrian Cho

    The world's three large gravitational wave detectors will work together to measure the minuscule stretching of space. The Virgo detector near Pisa, Italy, will share data with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which has detectors in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. Scientists proposed joining forces months ago (Science, 6 October 2006, p. 33), and funding agencies in the United States, Italy, and France sealed the deal last week. LIGO already collaborates with GEO600, a detector near Hannover, Germany. Any one detector could sense the waves, says Jay Marx, executive director for LIGO at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, but together, the three should be able to better pinpoint the sources.

  3. Indonesia, WHO Patch Up

    1. Martin Enserink

    Indonesia and the World Health Organization (WHO) appear to have resolved an impasse on the sharing of avian influenza samples after two of the agency's flu experts met with Indonesian health minister Siti Fadillah Supari in Jakarta last week.

    Indonesia had announced it would stop sharing H5N1 strains with WHO's four collaborating centers without an agreement to limit commercial use of the virus. The country did so after discovering that an Australian company had developed a vaccine based on an Indonesian H5N1 strain. A 16 February joint declaration said that Indonesia would resume sharing strains while WHO would help the country and its neighbors find ways to ensure access to vaccines at an affordable cost.

  4. Stem Cell Grants Awarded

    1. Constance Holden

    The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which is funding human embryonic stem (ES) cell research in that state, last week announced its first $45 million in research grants to 20 California institutions. The top recipient is Stanford University, with 12 awards totaling $7.6 million over 2 years. Faculty with the University of California, San Francisco, came in second with 11 grants.

    Among the awards are some novel attempts at reprogramming differentiated cells to a pluripotent—or ES cell-like—state. And the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in San Diego is getting $638,000 to generate a library of ES cell lines that model a number of human genetic diseases. A second, $80 million round of grants is slated to be announced this spring. CIRM is moving ahead with the aid of private donations and a $150 million state loan, pending resolution of lawsuits that have delayed bond sales.

    CIRM is also hunting for a president to succeed Zach Hall, who plans to retire in June. National Institutes of Health stem cell chief James Battey is rumored to be a top contender for the job.

  5. Kaiser to Set Up Gene Bank

    1. Jennifer Couzin

    The health care provider Kaiser Permanente hopes that 500,000 of its 2 million adult members in northern California will participate in a massive genetics research program containing DNA samples with health information to find links between genes, environment, and disease. Kaiser has started asking members about their family history, lifestyle, and other matters and plans to collect saliva or blood samples from willing participants in the next few years. The venture “is contingent on our acquiring additional funding,” says Catherine Schaefer, director of the program, which has raised $7 million of the tens of millions of dollars needed. It will safeguard the confidentiality of participants, and Kaiser will make data available on a case-by-case basis to outside scientists, she says.

    Kaiser “is in a strong position,” but its plan won't include a geographically diverse cohort nor the uninsured, notes Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Collins would like to start a broader study from scratch, which he admits would cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

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