ScienceScope

Science  21 Nov 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5905, pp. 1175
  1. Obama Transition: Agencies, Meet Microscope

    1. Eli Kintisch

    President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has announced the officials who will review federal agencies for the new Administration. Prominent among the hundreds of names is that of Nobelist Mario Molina of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), who along with former White House science and technology official Thomas Kalil will head the review of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “You get someone like Mario who knows science and has some experience working with governments—that's a good choice,” says Mark Thiemens, a colleague of Molina's at UCSD. Molina has served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under Bill Clinton and runs an institute devoted to energy and the environment in Mexico City.

    One reviewer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, parent agency for the National Institutes of Health, is former NIH Director Harold Varmus, who headed Obama's scientific advisory group. That group shaped the candidate's stances on issues such as a proposed doubling of basic research over 10 years, lifting the limitations on stem cell research, and funding comprehensive sex education. Space lobbyist Lori Garver, who has helped author Obama's space policy, will review NASA along with former NASA policy chief Alan Ladwig and space advocate George Whitesides.

  2. E Pluribus Unum

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    Hoping to broaden its reach, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has launched a program to solve specific scientific challenges using collaborative teams. The $10-million-a-year, 4-year pilot recognizes that “certain scientific problems couldn't be attacked by a single laboratory,” says HHMI Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer Jack Dixon, in contrast to the charity's usual approach of funding “people, not projects.” HHMI also wants to reach scientists who are not Hughes investigators, he says.

    The eight “collaborative innovation awards” were chosen from 62 applications and are funded at roughly $700,000 to $1.4 million a year, Dixon says. One project links an HHMI biochemist with an ant researcher to study whether changes in gene activity that don't involve DNA mutations affect aging. In 2 years, HHMI's advisers will decide whether to expand the program.

  3. INSERM in Flux?

    1. Martin Enserink

    The French government plans to adopt proposals for a major overhaul of the life sciences, presented last week by a panel led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health's former director Elias Zerhouni. The group recommends ending the current fragmentation of biomedical research by setting up a strong, unified agency to fund biomedical research.

    In its review of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), it takes aim at the entire life sciences effort. The report said that “striking” fragmentation has led to “unnecessary turf battles” and “inordinate amounts of time” being spent on paperwork. Recommendations include rewarding good researchers better and streamlining peer review. Unions are expected to object to deep reforms, but French Prime Minister François Fillon has asked research minister Valérie Pécresse to set up a panel to implement the recommendations.

  4. Stretching Out LHC Repairs

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    Repairs to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, could take longer than anticipated. LHC project director Lyn Evans told Science last week that the work, costing an estimated $13 million or more, could extend beyond the previously announced target of May 2009. At least 20 of the facility's 10,000 superconducting magnets suffered electrical damage 9 days after the 27-kilometer collider was unveiled on 10 September. Repairs began 2 weeks ago.

  5. Gene Tests Under Scrutiny

    1. Elizabeth Finkel

    Australia may soon get its own direct-to-consumer genetic testing business, but the company is heading into choppy waters. Lumigenix, based in Sydney, aims for a commercial launch early next year. But it could run afoul of the national Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which a spokesperson says could ban the test kits with legislation being drafted now. CEO Romain Bonjean says Lumigenix is taking a cautious approach to wording on promotional material for the service: “We've been communicating at length [with TGA] to understand what we can and can't do.” But Ron Trent, chair of the Human Genetics Advisory Committee of Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council, says “it's hard to make sense of some of these tests unless you're a statistician. … When it comes to genes for serious medical conditions, direct-to-consumer testing shouldn't be allowed.”

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