Science  23 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5854, pp. 1223

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    TO FEED AFRICA. A hands-on agronomist with wide international experience has been named the first president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. Namanga Ngongi, 62, who was executive director of the United Nations (U.N.) World Food Programme, has run his own palm-oil and plantain farm in Cameroon since retiring in 2003. “As a farmer, I know the critical needs of Africa's small farmers in gaining access to equipment and finances,” he says. The Nairobi-based alliance, chaired by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, is a year-old partnership of scientists, farmers, governments, and businesses that support innovative agricultural practices in Africa. It is developing programs to improve seeds, soil health, market access, and agricultural education, including graduate programs at African universities. The multiplicity of crops makes Africa more of a challenge than other parts of the world, says Ngongi, who earned a Ph.D. in agronomy from Cornell University in 1976. But he says he's looking forward to the challenge.


    Sudanese molecular biologist Hiba Mohamed has won a $120,000 research prize from the Royal Society and Pfizer to continue her work on leishmaniasis, a disease borne by sand flies. Mohamed, a researcher at the Institute of Endemic Diseases in Khartoum, has been studying the genetic factors that determine an individual's susceptibility to the disease. The award was established last year to help boost research capacity in developing countries.



    BIO GOLD. Neurobiologist and biotech entrepreneur Corey Goodman has been tapped to lead Pfizer Inc.'s new Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center in South San Francisco, California. Goodman says his mission is to “supercharge” Pfizer's research on biological treatments such as antibodies and RNA interference until it matches the company's traditional strength in small-molecule drug discovery.

    The New York City-based drug giant is looking for future blockbuster drugs to offset looming patent expirations. Goodman says the new center will employ only a few hundred scientists in order “to keep that biotech entrepreneurial spirit.” He will also oversee alliances with biotech companies and scout for new collaborations or acquisitions.

    Goodman's appointment comes as molecular geneticist Martin Mackay takes over the company's $7.6 billion global research and development effort. Goodman, who has co-founded two biotech firms in the past 13 years and has served on the faculties at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and the University of California, Berkeley, will keep a toe in the academic waters as an adjunct professor at UC San Francisco.


    “If failure to compromise continues, the world community must accept responsibility and ensure that any cloned individual receives full human rights protections.”

    —Brendan Tobin, co-author of a United Nations report issued last week calling for a worldwide ban on human cloning.



    BACK ON DECK. The former director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts has been named the first president of a new $120 million organization dedicated to increased support for U.S. ocean science. Robert Gagosian takes the reins of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington, D.C., formed earlier this year in a merger of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education and the Joint Oceanographic Institutions.

    WHOI grew significantly during his 12 years as its leader, adding labs and a new ship. Gagosian says that ocean research is being squeezed by rising oil prices and increased costs of ship maintenance and operations, but he's hopeful that greater awareness of climate change could mean a rising tide for the field. “If we can't get an increase for ocean science now, I don't know when we could,” he says. He starts 1 December.

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