Newsmakers

Science  07 Mar 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5868, pp. 1317
  1. PIONEERS

    CREDIT: DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY

    HEROIC. Michael Kelley, an oncologist and basic researcher at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, routinely gets calls from cancer patients asking him for health advice. But Josh Sommer is the first patient he met whose reaction to being diagnosed was to “roll up [his] sleeves and say, ‘I want to work with you and in your lab.’”

    Sommer, a junior at Duke University in Durham, found out in 2006 that he had chordoma, a rare cancer that afflicts one in a million people with tumors at different spots along their spinal column. The news prompted him and his mother, physician Simone Sommer, to launch the Chordoma Foundation to foster collaborations among the small community of chordoma researchers around the world. Sommer, who switched from environmental engineering to biomedical engineering after learning of his illness, also works part-time for Kelley analyzing the gene expression of different chordoma and normal cell lines.

    “I think they've catapulted the research light-years ahead,” says Duke's Neil Spector, a cancer drug development expert who has found preliminary evidence that an existing chemotherapy drug may prove helpful against chordoma. Sommer is “a phenomenally gifted young man,” Spector adds.

  2. THEY SAID IT

    “It is a moral outrage that a wealthy country like the United States allows its closest neighbors to suffer from some of the world's worst levels of disease, poverty, and malnutrition. … By transforming Gitmo from a detainee facility to a center for research on the diseases of poverty, the U.S. would show that it sincerely wants to address the Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean, and ultimately make things better for the next generation of all Americans.”

    —Peter Hotez, editor-in-chief of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, offering a bit of unsolicited foreign policy advice about Guantánamo Bay in the February issue of the journal.

  3. MOVERS

    A KEEPER. Six months after a stalled attempt to appoint a head of geosciences, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has named space physicist Timothy Killeen to the job. Killeen currently heads the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.

    CREDIT: NATIONAL CENTER FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

    The geosciences directorate has been without an assistant director since January of last year. NSF asked oceanographer Mark Abbott of Oregon State University (OSU), Corvallis, in July of last year to fill the job. Abbott later withdrew after NSF's lawyers told him that his close managerial ties to OSU posed too many conflicts of interest (Science, 17 August 2007, p. 879). NCAR receives 70% of its $150 million budget from NSF, but Killeen says he's stepping down as director to become a senior scientist and “will not be involved with funding decisions, advocacy, and other matters relative to NCAR.”

    Killeen says his 8 years as director of NCAR have taught him that being a science administrator “is all about people, facilities, managing effectively, and keeping an eye on the science.” He'll join NSF in July after completing his 2-year term as president of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C.

  4. IN THE NEWS

    CREDIT: AP

    A SECOND LIFE. Korean veterinarian Byeong Chun Lee, who collaborated with disgraced stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang to create the world's first cloned dog, Snuppy, is now trying to clone a deceased pit bull terrier named Booger.

    Booger was owned by a California woman, Bernann McKinney, who banked some of his ear tissue after his death in 2000. She recently placed a $150,000 order with a Seoul-based biotech firm, RNL Bio, to have the dog cloned. Under an agreement between RNL Bio and Seoul National University, the cloning will be done by Lee and his colleagues at SNU. If successful, it will be the first commercial cloning of a dog in the world, which could launch an era of pet cloning. (The tissue bank company McKinney used, Genetic Savings and Cloning, successfully cloned a cat for $50,000 in 2004 before being acquired by Viagen, a California company that clones livestock.)

    Lee made headlines in 2005 as part of a research team that cloned an Afghan hound. Although most of Hwang's other accomplishments turned out to be fraudulent, Snuppy stood up to scientific scrutiny. During its investigation of the Hwang affair, SNU officials found Lee guilty of embezzling funds but allowed him to stay on because of his accomplishments.

    Since Snuppy, Lee has cloned a number of other dogs and a wolf. He plans to deliver Booger's clone by February 2009.

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