August 1988

News

A Tiny Biotech Startup Wages War Against AIDS
A Tiny Biotech Startup Wages War Against AIDS
One of the most promising attacks on the dread disease was produced far from the meccas of biotechnology The message transmitted from the fourth International Conference on AIDS in Stockholm this June was bleak. Seven thousand of the world’s leading scientists had gathered to hear more than 3,100 presentations and to discuss what has been learned about the virus. “Not enough” was the answer. An estimated five million to 10 million people have been infected with the HIV virus,
NIH Peers At Its Own Peer-Review Process
NIH Peers At Its Own Peer-Review Process
At least six experiments are aimed at improving the odds for innovative, cross disciplinary, and high-risk proposals WASHINGTON—The National Institutes of Health is changing the way that it does business with the research community. More than a half-dozen experiments are underway to improve the peer-review system—the tool NIH uses to weed out nearly two-thirds of the proposals it examines from those it will find. Most researchers consider peer review to be a pillar of science, ran
U.S. Astronomers Are Furious At Federal Funding 'Failures'
U.S. Astronomers Are Furious At Federal Funding 'Failures'
After years of passivity, the astronomy community is protesting telescope closings, cramped quarters, and scanty maintenance Like some ill solar wind, word is radiating through the galaxy of United States astronomers that they’ll have to shut down more of their small telescopes before plans to build a new one are approved. For many, this is the final straw. Throughout the past decade, U.S. astronomers suffered in silence as the National Science Foundation retargeted money to areas of s
Woods Hole Lab Faces Uncertain Future
Woods Hole Lab Faces Uncertain Future
Celebrating its centennial, the Marine Biological Laboratory adapts to a new era in which money talks as loudly as science WOODS HOLE, MASS.—When Harlyn 0. Halvorson, the new director of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, blows out the candles for his institution’s 100th birthday this summer, no one will have to ask what he wished for. The laboratory needs more money, more room, and more molecular biology if it is to remain in the forefront of scientific research durin
Bankruptcy Law Loophole Worries New Firms
Bankruptcy Law Loophole Worries New Firms
How will startups get needed capital if the licenses they grant can be voided during court proceedings? WASHINGTON—Steven Mendell says he isn’t worried about the future of his company, Xoma Corp. The seven-year-old Berkeley, California, biotechnology startup firmed up its funding by going public in 1986 and has an agreement with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. to help it develop a line of monoclonal antibody-based products to treat septic shock infections. But Mendell, Xoma&
Imreg Rushes To Gain Approval
Imreg Rushes To Gain Approval
{WantNoCacheVal} Imreg Rushes To Gain Approval Each day, more than a dozen clerks rustle through stacks of patient records as they photocopy, compile, and review an estimated 28,000 documents. The documents record data from clinical testing of what could, if approved by the FDA, be a new treatment for AIDS patients. The clerks are part of a small, highly motivated team employed by Imreg Inc., New Orleans. The tiny company is heatedly engaged in filing a new drug application for its promising I
VP Candidate Lloyd Bentsen Is 'Outspoken On Science Issues'
VP Candidate Lloyd Bentsen Is 'Outspoken On Science Issues'
WASHINGTON—While Michael Dukakis may have chosen Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate for Bentsen’s ability to win over his home state and Southern conservatives, the Democratic senator from Texas also brings to the ticket a strong interest in space research, advanced physics, and high technology. Bentsen’s record on scientific issues suggests he may be primarily motivated by economic concerns— in particular, growth for Texas. But those interests have coincided with effor
Reagan Aides Question His Pact With Japan
Reagan Aides Question His Pact With Japan
Some advisers doubt the Japanese will comply with the terms of the science treaty signed in Canada last June WASHINGTON—The ink had hardly dried on the agreement signed by Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita to foster United States-Japan cooperation in science when the sniping began. But the snipers weren’t Democrats running for office, nor were they diplomats representing Japan’s commercial rivals. The criticism was coming from hardliners in the White House
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
The Scientist has asked a group of experts to periodically comment upon recent articles that they have found noteworthy. Their selections, presented here in every issue, we neither endorsements of content nor the result of systematic searching. Rather, they are personal choices of articles they believe the scientific community as a whole may also find interesting. Reprints of any articles cited here may be ordered through The Genuine Article 3501 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, or by telep
Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark Rank Highest In High-Impact Science
Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark Rank Highest In High-Impact Science
A trio of relatively small Western European nations heads a recently published list of countries that produce high-quality basic research. The study, undertaken by the Information Science and Scientometrics Research Unit (ISSRU) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, found that the scientists of Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark produced papers having significantly greater impact than expected, based on the average citation rates of the journals in which each paper was published. By t
U.K. Breakthrough Bolsters Radio analytical Imaging
U.K. Breakthrough Bolsters Radio analytical Imaging
Methods for quantifying radioisotopes on membranes, gels, and microtiter trays are fundamental to molecular biology and related research areas. Until recently, these methods were difficult, tedious, and time-consuming, requiring the scientist to expose the plates to X- ray film for periods ranging from a few hours to a week or more. But a new method for identifying and classifying bacteria by imaging the radioisotope distribution has been developed by the Department of Reproductive Physiology
DuPont Superconductivity Team Achieves, Thanks To 'Networking'
DuPont Superconductivity Team Achieves, Thanks To 'Networking'
In early 1987, when research team around the world began reporting higher and higher superconductivity temperatures, several scientists at E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co in Wilmington, Del., were touched by the fervor spreading throughout the scientific community. It was the spontaneous outpouring of enthusiasm by this group of bench scientists—rather than a sudden profit-motivated decision on the part of DuPont senior management—that resulted shortly thereafter in the company’
Salary Survey: Physicists' Pay In The U.K.
Salary Survey: Physicists' Pay In The U.K.
The highest salaries for young physicists in the U.K. are paid for jobs associated with the electricity-generation industry, according to a recent survey conducted by the London-based Institute of Physics. The survey, based on 1988 salary data supplied by 5,430 respondents, revealed that physicists between 25 and 29 earn a median salary of £15,380 ($26,146) in that industry, compared to £14,700 ($24,990) in communications technology, and £14,500 ($24,650) in computer science.

Briefs

Government Briefs
Government Briefs
Ever since President Reagan took office, the NIH budget has been a political football—artificially low requests handed off by the president have crossed the goal line as sizable increases in the final appropriations measure passed by Congress. But that tradition could end this year. The Reagan request for a small 6.8% increase over this year’s budget is being taken seriously on Capitol Hill, and it appears likely that the final figures for NIH will be only slightly higher. In June,
National Lab Briefs
National Lab Briefs
Brookhaven National Lab’s High Flux Beam Reactor got a major boost last month when a Department of Energy committee recommended that a proposed $20 million upgrade of the reactor be included in next year’s budget. A DOE official says that the project “has a good shot” of making it into the president’s 1990 budget request, which will be submitted next January. The upgrade will allow the 23-year-old reactor to remain the nation’s primary neutron source for th
Private Institute Briefs
Private Institute Briefs
No one believes that science is always objective. But how much are the ideas, experiments, and even conclusions of science shaped by the surrounding culture? Social scientist Kalim Siddiqui, director of the Muslim Institute in London, wants to know. So he has invited Islamic scientists working outside the Muslim world— he estimates there are 500,000 of them—to attend a conference in London this winter to examine the question. Siddiquis own opinion is that modern science is ‘l
Entrepreneur Briefs
Entrepreneur Briefs
The dispute itself isn’t unique: three scientists are accused of stealing trade secrets after they left a research institute for positions in industry. But this dispute is taking place in China, where the outcome may have an important impact on the future of entrepreneurship in a state-controlled economy. The China Research Institute for Printing Science and Technology has accused three senior researchers of taking with them their work on advanced typesetting software when they accepted
Industry Briefs
Industry Briefs
California, home to almost one-third of the nation’s biotech firms, is eager for more. The state’s universities and venture capitalists have proven successful at nourishing nascent companies; now its Department of Commerce is joining the effort. Its advertising slogan, placed this spring in four magazines for scientists, urges: “Come to California and bring your genes.” But it isn’t all slick public relations—the agency also offers a free, 200-page report p
Association Briefs
Association Briefs
The American Association of University Professors in Washington, D.C., has watched in alarm as Britain prepares to eliminate tenure from higher education as part of the government’s Education Reform Bill (The Scientist, June 27,1988, page 21). The organization has passed the following resolution: “AAUP notes with great concern the intention of the British government to abolish the system of academic tenure in all United Kingdom universities. We deplore the governments’ dis
University Briefs
University Briefs
Give Iowa State An ‘A’ For Altered Genes What can a university do when it plunges into agricultural biotechnology research in a big way—but doesn’t want the public to fear the field-testing of experimental products? Iowa State trotted out the genetics primer. This summer, the university devoted its annual teacher education program to genetic engineering, bringing high school teachers up to date on biotechnology and helping them design lesson plans for their students. Ov
Funding Briefs
Funding Briefs
More research money may be going to AIDS, but other immune deficiences are still underfunded and under-researched, says Marcia Boyle, president of the Immune Deficiency Disease Foundation. To encourage work on the primary immune deficiencies, the foundation is starting a faculty development award of $20,000 for each of three years to go to a young researcher in the first three years of a faculty appointment. The award will be funded by pharmaceutical supplier Cutter Biological, a subsidiary of
Computer Product Briefs
Computer Product Briefs
International Data Acquisition & Control Inc. (IDAC) recently released a chromatography system that includes a data acquisition peripheral, data acquisition software, and chromatography software, all of which work with Apple Macintosh computers. Called IDAC-Chrome, the system provides five methods of analyzing integrated data. Points can be withdrawn and refitted to find the optimum calibration, which can be performed using both internal and external standards. Based in Amherst, N.H., IDAC sel

Opinion

The Art Of Planning And Managing A Research Laboratory
The Art Of Planning And Managing A Research Laboratory
[Ed. note: Max Perutz shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in chemistiy with John Kendrew for developing the X-ray diffraction techniques that revealed the structures of macromolecules and, thereby launched the science of molecular biology. But more recently, he has been lauded for his spectacular success as a manager of scientists. In particular, the accolades single out his tenure as head of the Medical Research Council’s molecular biology laboratory in Cambridge, from 1947 to 1979. What makes
Why Scientists Should Start Playing The Political Game
Why Scientists Should Start Playing The Political Game
The National Academy of Sciences’ recent report on the behavioral and social sciences reveals that federal support of this domain of science has declined over the past 16 years, even though support for other areas of science has grown substantially. The report makes a good case for the public benefits of research in behavioral and social sciences and argues for increased funding. This argument, however, is likely to fall on deafened ears, as almost every segment of the scientific communi
Taking Time Out To Think
Taking Time Out To Think
Max Perutz observes in this issue that “many young scientists work too much and read and think too little” (page 11). And I agree. It’s not just a matter of spending too much time at the lab bench; it is also too much time taken to write grant proposals, review those of others, serve on committees, and perform many other activities. While these tasks, taken individually, may be necessary and even worthwhile, too many can dramatically cut into the time spent thinking about o

Letter

Letters
Letters
"Soviets Research Animals," by THOMAS J. NOVITSKY "‘No’ to Recantation," by MICHAEL STUART LOOP "Quackbusting Tales," by FREDERICK I. SCOTT JR. "Solar Booster," by A. CENGIZ BÜKER, M.C. "Islam Not Better?," by R. BHAWANI PRASAD In the spirit of glasnost, I would like to correct the statement attributed to me in the article “Perestroika Comes None Too Soon” (The Scientist, June 27, 1988, page 6), implying a universal lack of pyrogen testing (other than human

Research

More Work On Pollution's Impact, For Plants' Sake
More Work On Pollution's Impact, For Plants' Sake
Atmospheric emissions from human activity have long been known to be a health hazard. Short chimneys and, later, tall smokestacks have dispersed emissions across our landscapes in ever-widening spheres of influence, to the point where anthropogenic air pollutants today cover broad regions in developing and developed countries across the globe. Scientific study of the impact of these emissions on plants has extended beyond the dramatic local-point source problem to current major programs’
The 4 Most Cited Papers: Magic In These Methods
The 4 Most Cited Papers: Magic In These Methods
It will surprise few that methods papers lead the list of the most cited scientific articles ever—at least those tracked in the Institute for Scientific Information’s Science Citation Index, 1955 to 1987. “The lowry paper,” as it is known, stands head-and-shoulders above all others. This 1951 article by Oliver H. Lowry Nira J. Rosenbrough, A. Lewis Farr, and R.J. Randall, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, 193,265-75, reported an improved procedure for

Hot Paper

Hot Papers
Hot Papers
The articles listed below—all less than a year old—have received a substantially greater number of citations than others of the same type and vintage. A citation-tracking algorithm of the Institute for Scientific Information has identified these articles. A. Dorn, J. Bollekens, A. Staub, C. Benoist, D. Mathis, “A multiplicity of CCAAT box-binding proteins,” Cell, 50 (6), 863-72, 11 September 1987. T. Hunter, “A thousand and one protein kinases,” Cell, 50

Profession

When Language Hurts Scientists And Their Employers
When Language Hurts Scientists And Their Employers
Sajal Das started out well. A bright boy from Calcutta, he finished his undergraduate degree in India, earned a Ph.D. studying high-temperature polymers at North Carolina State University, and soon found a good R&D job at Morristown, N.J. -based Allied-Signal Corp. But then he stalled. While his United States-born colleagues went scampering up the corporate-scientific ladder, Das has stayed put, although, in his opinion, his science is every bit as good as anyone’s. The trouble, from wh
Science Grants
Science Grants
Below is a list of notable grants recently awarded in the sciences—large federal grants as well as awards of all sizes from private foundations. The individual cited with each entry is the project’s principal investigator. BIOMEDICINE: The Bristol-Myers Company, New York City, awarded unrestricted grants for cancer research to two institutions: $500,000 over five years to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.; J.V. Simone $500,000 over five years to the Yale
Also Notable
Also Notable
OLIVER HEAVISIDE: Sage In Solitude Paul J. Nahin; IEEE Press; New York 320 pages; $57.95 ($43.45 for IEEE members) Victorian engineer and scientist Oliver Heaviside “with no formal education after the age of sixteen, eventually came to be accepted as the intellectual equal of the finest scientific minds of the day,” writes engineering professor Paul Nahin in Betting the parameters for this biography. Heaviside resigned from his one and only job at age twenty-four. ... [He] knew th
Tools That Help Break The Computer Language Barrier
Tools That Help Break The Computer Language Barrier
Twenty years ago, when I was at Princeton, I and all of my fellow graduate students in physics were required to pass two foreign-language achievement tests in order to get our degrees. Since then, apparently convinced that such skills are of diminishing importance, the Princeton physics department— and most other graduate schools as well—have dropped such a requirement. On the other hand, skill in the “foreign” language of computer programming has increasingly been re
Biochemist Glimcher Cited For Hard-Tissue Research
Biochemist Glimcher Cited For Hard-Tissue Research
Surgeons know that some of the most painful, costly, deadly diseases could be prevented or reversed if only medical science understood the molecular structure of phosphated proteins and their interaction with calcium. No surprise then that Melvin Glimcher—who has been responsible for a number of extraordinary research breakthroughs in this area—would become the first person to receive the Bristol-Myers/Zimmer Award for Distinguished Achievement in Orthopaedic Research. Glimcher dir

Books etc.

A Noted Biologist Traces His Own Evolution
A Noted Biologist Traces His Own Evolution
TOWARD A NEW PHILOSOPHY OF BIOLOGY: Observations Of An Evolutionist Ernst Mayr Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; Cambridge; 564 pages; $35 At 84, Ernst Mayr is as active, intellectually engaged, and committed to the vitality of evolutionary biology as he was in 1942, when he helped launch modern evolutionary theory with the publication of Systematics and the Origin of Species. In a near half-century of writing essays since then, he has both reaffirmed his belief in current theory&

Technology

'Drastic' Improvement Seen In Mass Spectrometers
'Drastic' Improvement Seen In Mass Spectrometers
Recent technological advances have vastly improved the mass range and resolution capabilities of mass spectrometers, while making these instruments more versatile and easier to use. “We can work with smaller and smaller amounts of material because the instrumentation sensitivities have improved so drastically over the last few years,” says J. Carter Cook, director of VG Instruments’ laboratory in Savannah, Georgia. Other improvements include advances in computerization t