Science  15 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5831, pp. 1549

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    A FRIEND AT NIH. Former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. may have earned national scorn for lying about his role in the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity. But he remains in the good graces of many political bigwigs—and at least one prominent science administrator: Anthony Fauci, head of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    Anthony Fauci CREDIT: NIAID

    Along with Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Henry Kissinger, Fauci wrote a “presentencing” letter to the judge who presided over Libby's trial, vouching for Libby's “integrity, honesty, unselfishness, and tireless efforts in helping to safeguard our nation.” District Judge Reggie Walton released the letters on 5 June—the same day he sentenced Libby to 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine for perjury and obstruction of justice during a federal investigation into how agent Valerie Plame's cover was blown.

    Fauci says Libby contacted him after being convicted: “He said, 'We don't want you to offer any opinion about whether I'm guilty; it's just a plea for mercy.'” Fauci's two-page letter, written on official NIH letterhead (which federal rules allow), explains how he worked closely with Libby during the past 5 years on biodefense issues, including the drafting of the Project BioShield legislation.


    MUM'S THE WORD. Two cancer researchers who made skeptical comments about a proposed anticancer drug have now gone silent after receiving phone and e-mail threats. Howard Scher of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and Maha Hussain of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, expressed doubts about the adequacy of data from the Dendreon Corp. in Seattle, Washington, supporting a proposed “vaccine” for prostate cancer in private letters to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while serving on an advisory panel reviewing the application. According to a Memorial Sloan-Kettering spokesperson, Scher began to receive extremely hostile, anonymous messages after his comments became public. Scher was given special security protection at last week's meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, Illinois. (Meanwhile, activist patients who want the Dendreon product approved staged a protest at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.) Hussain received similar threats, according to a 4 June story in The New York Times. Both scientists are withholding comment on the incident.



    MORE STRUCTURE. Structural biologist Michael Sundström has been named director of a new protein research center being launched with a $108 million gift from Denmark's Novo Nordisk Foundation. The center, based at the University of Copenhagen, will study the role of proteins in biological systems, disease, and therapy in order to speed up drug discovery.

    The 43-year-old Sundström, who has worked for the drug industry and is currently chief scientist at Oxford University's Structural Genomics Consortium, plans to build a staff of 100 young researchers to work on five specialty areas. He hopes that finding common themes, such as the pathways involved in tumor growth, will allow the research to be carried out “in a more coordinated fashion than in a normal academic environment.” Ulla Wewer, dean of health sciences, says the gift will sustain the center for the first 5 years, after which researchers will seek outside grant support to extend their work in cancer, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and other fields.

    Sundström starts in September, and the center will formally open in fall 2008.

  4. Two Cultures


    BIRD'S-EYE VIEW. While most geologists stay on the ground, Michael Collier takes to the sky. An avid pilot and photographer, Collier has spent 3 decades illuminating the geological stories behind landscapes. In April, his 13th book was published—a glossy collection of photographs called Over the Mountains: An Aerial View of Geology. Several of the photos went on display last week at a solo show in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of AAAS (which publishes Science).

    Collier, 56, majored in geology, then spent a few years as a boatman on the Grand Canyon. He earned a master's degree in structural geology, then a medical degree. When not photographing landscapes, he's a part-time family physician in Williams, Arizona. He has logged some 4000 hours in his 50-year-old Cessna 180, which he has nicknamed “Buzzard.” “When I'm cutting and curling at 1000 feet, the stories begin to pop out in three dimensions,” he says. (Inset shows folded rocks at Sheep Mountain, Wyoming.) His next book is about rivers.