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Balancing oversight

By | January 26, 2010

Last month, the linkurl:California Institute for Regenerative Medicine; (CIRM) linkurl:pulled 3 of the 76 SEED grants; it had given in one of its very first rounds of funding due to inadequate progress -- a 4% revocation rate. On the flip side, the linkurl:National Institutes of Health; (NIH), which funds nearly 10,000 research grants each year, says it hardly ever pulls basic research grants. What's the ri


News in a nutshell

By | January 25, 2010

- The number of orphan drug designations granted by the US Food and Drug Administration has risen sharply over the past 10 years, according to a new linkurl:study; from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. There were 208 products designated as treatments for neglected diseases in 2000-2002; that number grew to 425 drugs or vaccines by 2006-2008. - A leading stem cell research advocate this weekend linkurl:called on;http


Sonar links bats and whales

By | January 25, 2010

In a striking example of evolutionary convergence, bats and whales appear to have at least two things in common: their ability to use biosonar to navigate and explore their environments and the molecular sequence of a protein that helps them do so, according to two new papers published online today (January 25) in Current Biology. An echolocating bat (Myotis bechsteinii)avoiding collision with a plantImage: Wikimedia commons, PLoS Computational Biology"It's a nice example" of convergence at the


A review of Extraordinary Measures

By | January 22, 2010

Rare diseases and drug discovery don't usually make for Hollywood blockbusters. But today (January 22) a film about a genetic affliction that strikes fewer than 10,000 people worldwide hits movie screens, and it has some serious star power behind it. Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser head up the cast of Extraordinary Measures, a new movie that may lift Pompe disease from the shadows of obscurity into the spotlight, as the focal point of an inspirational story of paternal love and scientific innov


Bush stem cell line ok for approval

By | January 22, 2010

For the first time since the linkurl:National Institutes of Health; released its new guidelines for the derivation of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines last summer, a line approved under the Bush administration has been recommended for inclusion into the growing federal registry of lines eligible for federal funding. Human embryonic stem cellsImage: Wikimedia commons, Nissim BenvenistySubmitted by the WiCell Research Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, the WA01 (commonly


deCODE reborn

By | January 21, 2010

A leaner version of the failed Icelandic genomics company, deCODE genetics, has emerged from the corporation's bankruptcy late last year. Dubbed the "New deCODE" in a company linkurl:statement; released today (Jan 21), deCODE genetics ehf will focus less on in-house drug discovery, instead partnering with drug makers to translate its genetic discoveries into therapies. The new company will also continue to sell its diagnostics disease risk tests and i

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DNA factory launches

By | January 21, 2010

Need a gene promoter? You may soon be able to order one from a catalog. California synthetic biologists are launching a linkurl:production facility; that will provide free, standardized DNA parts for scientists around the world. A light programmable biofilm madeby the UT Austin / UCSF team, iGEM 2004 Image: Wikipedia The project, called BIOFAB: International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology -- or just BIOFAB for short -- aims to boost the ease of bioengineering with

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NSF slaps school over grant

By | January 20, 2010

A small university in Georgia has agreed to pay back $500,000 of a multi-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation for failing to accurately document some expenditures associated with the grant program. The NSF alleged that administrators at Fort Valley State University (FVSU), one of Georgia's historically black universities located about 100 miles south of Atlanta, violated the False Claims Act, legislation usually invoked to punish Medicare fraudsters or war profiteers. The

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Wanted: Records of revoked grants

By | January 20, 2010

Deciding when to pull a grant for any reason is one of the most difficult tasks any funding agency faces. It is not a decision that is taken lightly, and is usually a last resort. But it happens. Scientists who falsify data or misuse funds or even fail to show satisfactory progress do, from time to time, lose their funding. Image: Wikimedia commonsThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) admits to the occasional termination of basic research grants, emphasizing the rarity of such a drastic measu


Marshall Nirenberg dies

By | January 19, 2010

Marshall W. Nirenberg, who received the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the language of codons and how DNA is translated into proteins, succumbed to cancer at age 82 in his New York home last week (January 15), after several months of illness. Marshall Nirenberg performing anexperiment, circa 1962Image: Wikimedia commons, MacVicar,National Institutes of Health"We feel like [we are] losing our close friend who has created the base of the current molecular biology and t


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