Science  14 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5771, pp. 175

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  1. Data From Pesticide Tests OK'd

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can use nine studies in which humans were intentionally dosed with pesticides in its decisions this year about reregulating the chemicals, a new advisory board has concluded. Activists have complained for years about the ethics of intentional-dosing studies (Science, 1 January 1999, p. 18), and in 2004, a report by a National Academies' National Research Council panel called for the review board.

    Meeting last week for the first time, EPA's Human Studies Review Board was charged by the agency with examining 11 studies for scientific merit and whether there was “clear and convincing evidence that the research was intended to seriously harm participants or [purposely] failed to obtain informed consent.” The 16-member group found no such flaws but rejected two studies as scientifically inadequate; it will meet again in May and June to review more studies.

    Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., says all 11 studies have some ethical flaws, such as possibly harming subjects, and shouldn't be used by the agency. But she's pleased that the board will use a higher standard when it vets protocols for proposed research.

  2. Venus Rendezvous Succeeds

    European Space Agency officials breathed a sigh of relief this week after their Venus Express spacecraft entered a highly elliptical orbit around Venus. Similar although riskier maneuvers have failed at Mars, and ground controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, were relieved by the 10 April milestone. The 50-minute rocket burn that put the craft into orbit around Earth's planetary neighbor was considered the most dangerous part of the mission after the launch, 5 months ago.

    The $260 million spacecraft will conduct climate and atmospheric studies of the planet's surface in unprecedented detail using ultraviolet and visible light, radar, and infrared cameras. Magnetometers and spectrometers will study the effects of solar winds on the atmosphere.

    Everyone is “very pleased,” says Fred Taylor of the University of Oxford, U.K., one of the founders of the mission. The first set of data from Venus Express is expected in about a month.

  3. Apes to Retire in Style

    AMSTERDAM—Eighty-one chimps living at Europe's last remaining ape colony for biomedical research will retire later this year—but not under the Spanish sun, as previously planned.

    Last week, the Dutch government said that 28 HIV-infected animals from the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in Rijswijk will go to a facility operated by AAP, a Dutch foundation, as planned. But the government canceled a plan to house 33 healthy chimps in a proposed AAP resort near the Spanish coast after the idea met with local opposition (Science, 27 August 2004, p. 1227). Instead, they will go to a “safari park” in Hilvarenbeek, the Netherlands. The remaining 20 healthy animals will go to a zoo in Amersfoort.

  4. Stalking Indian Ocean Illness

    PARIS—Responding to a major outbreak of the crippling chikungunya virus on the island of La Réunion (Science, 24 February, p. 1085), the French government has announced the creation of a new research and surveillance center for emerging diseases in the Indian Ocean. France has pledged a start-up budget of $2.7 million, but details are still sketchy. “My dream is that it will be open for researchers from around the world,” says Antoine Flahault, who coordinates France's chikungunya research program. With an international scope and sufficient funding, the center could fill an important need, says epidemiologist Mark Wilson of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

  5. Pittsburgh Goes Italian

    The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has joined the Italian government and its National Research Council to build a $398 million Biomedical Research and Biotechnology Center in Palermo, Sicily. The center will host as many as 600 researchers focused on medical imaging, regenerative medicine, vaccine development, and computational biology. It will expand on the connections UPMC has established with Palermo through its ISMETT organ-transplant hospital, founded in 1997.

    ISMETT Director General Bruno Gridelli says the center, funded by Italy and managed by UPMC, will provide opportunities that today are only available abroad. “We will have the control we need to make it work,” says UPMC medical school dean Arthur Levine. The new research center will begin hiring this year, and the building is expected to be completed in 2011.