ScienceScope

Science  02 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5851, pp. 729
  1. New Scrutiny on Vaccine Trial

    1. Jon Cohen

    Stunned by the decision to halt a large trial of a promising AIDS vaccine made by Merck & Co. in September (Science, 5 October, p. 28), researchers are now confronting a more shocking prospect still: Vaccinated people somehow may have become more susceptible to HIV infection than participants who received a placebo. Experts caution that no new data have emerged, simply a new interpretation of the same findings.

    An independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), required for certain federal clinical trials, recommended stopping the 3000-person trial, under way in North and South America, the Caribbean, and Australia, after an interim analysis of half the participants revealed that 19 people who had received at least two doses of the vaccine became infected versus 11 people in the placebo group. Because the vaccine had failed, a trial of the same preparation in South Africa was also stopped, and the DSMB overseeing that study suggested that researchers notify vaccinated people of the potential increased risk they now face, although the difference was not statistically significant. “We had two DSMBs that looked at the data differently,” says Lawrence Corey, a study leader with the University of Washington, Seattle. Corey says there were “geopolitical considerations” that led the South African DSMB to “err on the side of safety.” Study organizers will meet in Seattle next week to closely review the data.

  2. French GM Crops Halted

    1. Martin Enserink

    PARIS—French President Nicolas Sarkozy delighted environmental activists last week by announcing a moratorium on the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops. The temporary ban was one in a series of sweeping environmental policies announced at the end of a 2-day roundtable meeting on the environment here. Sarkozy said he wants to suspend cultivation of Monsanto 810, an insect-resistant maize and the only GM crop currently grown in France, until a new “High Authority” has been set up to weigh its risks and advantages. EuropaBio, an industry lobby group, said the plan violates European rules; a spokesperson for the European Commission confirms that countries cannot ban the European Union-approved strain but says that the commission is awaiting details. André Choulika, a board member of industry group France Biotech, says the authority could help inject more science into the GM debate, and if it rules on 810 before the next planting season, the ban's impact could be minimal.

  3. China Wants More Enviros ...

    1. Richard Stone

    BEIJING—At last month's Communist Party Congress, China's leaders enshrined environmental protection in the country's constitution. Now China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has inked a deal to train grassroots conservationists. SEPA's China Environmental Culture Promotion Association and Rare, a conservation group in Arlington, Virginia, will train budding Chinese conservationists in techniques—such as festivals and puppetry—that can stir public interest and pride in biodiversity in order to “translate knowledge into personal, meaningful change,” says Brett Jenks, president of Rare. Southwest Forestry University in Kunming City in China will help launch projects at 10 sites next year, most likely in some of China's roughly 2000 nature reserves.

  4. ... And Heads to the Moon

    1. Andrew Lawler

    The first spacecraft launched beyond Earth orbit by a developing nation is on its way to the moon. Chang'e 1, named for the Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, will arrive in lunar orbit 5 November. The 24 October launch drew large crowds near the Sichuan launch center, was broadcast live on national television, and prompted senior Chinese officials to declare plans to share culled science data. The 2300-kg satellite will circle the moon for a year and send back three-dimensional images of the lunar surface and an analysis of moon dust. India and the United States plan to launch moon orbiters next year, and Japan announced this week that it will launch a robotic rover in the next decade.

  5. Oceans Are Nickel-and-Dimed

    1. Christopher Pala

    HONOLULU—A dozen marine scientists gathered here last week at the behest of the International Seabed Authority to design safeguards against the anticipated damage from the industrial harvesting of potato-sized nodules rich in nickel and copper sitting on a part of the Western Pacific sea floor with great biodiversity. “Practically every individual [organism] is a new species,” said Alex D. Rogers of the Zoological Society of London. The scientists inserted a patchwork of nine 400-km-by-400-km protected areas, in between mining claims in an area nearly the size of Australia. Harvesting is expected to start within a decade. If adopted, as expected, the restrictions would be the first such sanctuaries in international waters.