Science  11 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5421, pp. 1745

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  1. Anti-Mouse Antibodies

    Groups that want biomedical researchers to stop harvesting antibodies from mice are organizing a scientific panel to press their case.

    Every year, scientists kill about a million mice to get monoclonal antibodies, used for everything from analyzing tissue samples to attacking cancer. In April, a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee concluded that test tube alternatives were available for producing most antibodies (Science, 9 April, p. 230). But the panel, citing cost and other concerns, said it was too soon for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to follow four European nations in restricting the mouse, or “ascites,” method.

    Proponents of such restrictions, notably the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, hope to combat what ARDF head John McCardle calls a “heavily biased” NAS report by assembling their own expert panel. The panel—to meet in August in Bologna, Italy—will also draft a guide for labs interested in alternatives.

    Meanwhile, the groups have petitioned NIH to cut back on ascites production. They say a suit is possible if they are unhappy with NIH's response, expected later this year.

  2. Off the Table

    Georgetown University has officially abandoned a cost-saving plan that would have cut medical faculty salaries after 19 professors went to court to kill it.

    As part of a pretrial settlement, the university on 27 May agreed to send a letter to all medical faculty pronouncing the policy “null and void.” The plan, which would have required researchers to raise 70% of their salaries through grants, was shot down by a campus grievance committee last fall (Science, 11 December 1998, p. 1967). The administration nonetheless implemented it, then rescinded it in February after faculty members filed suit claiming the university was violating its own procedures as well as academic freedom.

    The settlement allows the faculty “to bypass the grievance process and go straight to court” if there is any sort of “reincarnation” of the plan, says pharmacology professor Robert Glazer. The university notes that it is still “free to adopt a[nother] compensation policy in the future.”

  3. One More?

    Radiologists and bioengineers have joined forces to lobby for a new “home” at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal: an Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Engineering.

    Math- and physics-based research cannot truly prosper in biomedicine until NIH dedicates an institute to them, says Ed Nagy, executive director of the Academy of Radiology Research. Representing a score of societies, the group has teamed up with the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering to push companion bills introduced last month by Representative Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS).

    NIH officials strongly oppose the idea, saying it would be disruptive to “pull out” imaging experts and engineers from various NIH labs and stash them in a single institute. Although NIH director Harold Varmus and others have been supportive of the fields, Nagy says, a permanent home would ensure that “we don't have to depend on” the good will of individuals. The bills face an uphill road.

  4. Stern Words

    One week after chiding particle physicists for being wedded to outdated technology (Science, 4 June, p. 1597), NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin has accused astronomers of lacking vision. But some think it's a cheap shot.

    Speaking at an American Astronomical Society meeting in Chicago on 3 June, Goldin mocked astronomers who are enamored with the status quo, including the Hubble Space Telescope. He said facetiously that the agency could install the telescope in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and allocate “hug time” for astronomers unwilling to embrace newer technologies. He also complained that astronomers were ignoring such ideas as robotic explorers that can learn using neural networks and “genetic algorithms.”

    But some members of the audience think Goldin is confusing timidity with a healthy skepticism. Neural and genetic programs are not mature enough to be used on space missions, said one astronomer. And when Goldin shot back that “ignorance is not a place to be,” another scientist stood up “in defense of ‘ignorance’”—meaning current knowledge and expertise. No word yet on Goldin's next target.

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