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RNA viruses sneak into host DNA

By | January 15, 2009

Endogenous retroviruses, ancient viruses embedded throughout mammalian genomes, might help RNA viruses permanently integrate into the genomes of their hosts, according to a report in linkurl:__Science__;http://www.sciencemag.org/ this week. The findings overturn the long-held idea that most types of RNA viruses are incapable of DNA integration and raise another safety concern in the use of RNA-based gene therapy. "It's a very interesting paper," said Jens Mayer from the University of Saarlan

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What's your research worth?

By | January 15, 2009

British grant applicants will have to demonstrate the economic or social impact of their research, according to new funding rules rolled out by linkurl:Research Councils UK;http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/ (RCUK), the umbrella body for all of Britain's seven research councils. The "impact summary," which requires grant seekers to answer questions about the wider benefits of their research, was implemented today (Jan. 15) by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Other funding

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No funding for hybrid cloning

By | January 13, 2009

Less than a year after the creation of "admixed" human-animal hybrid embryos for stem cell research was legalized in the UK, investigators with permits to conduct the research have had their grant proposals rejected by two of the country's leading funding bodies. "Our funding applications have not been successful, so we don't have the equipment and personnel to do this work," linkurl:Stephen Minger,;http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/biohealth/research/wolfson/sminger.html a stem cell researcher at K

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Pfizer to cut 800 scientists

By | January 13, 2009

Pfizer will eliminate 5 to 8 percent of its global research staff this year, totaling about 800 people, according to a spokesperson for the company. Pfizer began one-on-one conversations today with colleagues getting the boot, with the majority of lay-offs happening in the next several months, company spokesperson Christopher Loder told The Scientist. Loder declined to provide details on which research divisions will be hit the hardest but emphasized that Pfizer is honing its research staff to

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FDA stinks at policing conflicts

By | January 12, 2009

Just when you thought nobody could be worse than the National Institutes of Health at managing financial conflicts of interest among trial investigators... The Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services released a linkurl:report;http://www.oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-05-07-00730.pdf today that indicates a pretty severe lack of oversight over at the Food and Drug Administration. The report found that only one percent of the almost 27,000 clinical investigators contracted by

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How killer cells remember

By | January 12, 2009

Adaptive immune cells like B and T cells aren't the only players in the immune system that can recognize antigens months after initially responding to them. A linkurl:study published online;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature07665.html in Nature today identifies a specific ligand-receptor interaction through which natural killer cells, part of the innate immune system and the body's first line of defense against immune invaders, remember and recognize antigens in the l

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MRI homes in on protein structure

By | January 12, 2009

An improvement in magnetic resonance imaging has allowed scientists to view a virus that measures just 18 nanometers across, a study in the early version of PNAS reports. A group led by linkurl:Dan Rugar;http://www.stanford.edu/group/cpn/research/investigators_13_2.html of the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. used magnetic resonance force microscopy to detect changes in the spins of hydrogen nuclei, a resolution 100 million times better than conventional MRI, allowing them to pe

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The between team

By | January 12, 2009

Executives at the Department of Health and Human Services have named a few acting agency heads as the US government prepares to transition into a new administration under President-Elect Barack Obama. There are no real surprises, with deputies or second-in-commands taking over next week and serving at top spots until successors are named by incoming HHS head linkurl:Tom Daschle;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55206/ or directly by Obama. Cancer biologist linkurl:Frank Torti,;http://w

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FDA's morale spending irks Congress

By | January 8, 2009

The US Food and Drug Administration is raising hackles on Capitol Hill where lawmakers are peeved that the agency has paid a consultant more than one million dollars to raise the spirits of FDA employees. Morale at the FDA seems to have hit an all time low, with internal and public voices levying criticisms against the agency for approving high-profile drugs that turned out to be unsafe. (See our December 2008 feature on morale problems at the FDA). The linkurl:__Wall Street Journal__;http://o

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Rethinking TB

By | January 8, 2009

New observations of the early stages of tuberculosis infection may turn scientists' understanding of the bug's pathogenesis on its head: clumps of immune cells, called granulomas, long thought to protect hosts from the disease instead appear to be launching pads for the bacteria to further invade an infected individual, according to a study published in __Cell__ this week. The insight may spawn new approaches to treating TB, which annually infects and kills millions of people worldwide and is i

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