July 1998

News

Private Genome Sequencing Effort May Hasten Separate Public Venture
Private Genome Sequencing Effort May Hasten Separate Public Venture
Leaders of separate public and private efforts to sequence the human genome used words such as "cooperation," "collaboration," and "partnership" to describe their intentions toward each other during a hearing last month in Washington, D.C. But both projects appear headed on separate, although not quite independent, courses. The private project--a joint venture between Perkin-Elmer Inc., a Norwalk, Conn.-based manufacturer of sequencing equipment, and J. Craig Venter, president of The Institute
USPTO Issues Biotech Patent Guidelines
USPTO Issues Biotech Patent Guidelines
In light of several high-profile court cases on patenting of DNA sequences, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in June issued interim guidelines for helping patent examiners determine if the so-called "written description" requirement for patent applications has been met. John J. Doll, director of biotechnology examination at USPTO, says the interim guidelines have become necessary to determine just how court decisions such as University of California Regents v. Eli Lilly and Co. wil
Classic Technique Reveals HIV in Action
Classic Technique Reveals HIV in Action
REVELATION: The glycoprotein gp120 binds to the CD4 receptor on the T cell, causing the viral molecule to contort in a way that enables it to bind to the nearby chemokine receptor, too. This dual binding of HIV to two co-receptors triggers fusion of the viral and T cell membranes. Infection begins. X-ray crystallography has played a pivotal role in life science research, from providing data crucial to deciphering the DNA double helix, to revealing the structure of HIV protease. Now, the techn
Research Funds Bonanza Going Up in Smoke?
Research Funds Bonanza Going Up in Smoke?
T he Senate's snuffing of anti-tobacco legislation last month also extinguished some optimism for increased science funding for fiscal year 1999, which begins Oct. 1, 1998. "It's definitely a setback," Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, admits. President Bill Clinton had earmarked some of the anticipated revenue from proposed increases in cigarette taxes to pay for a boost in biomedical research funding. Without that revenue, Research!America's goal of doubling biomedical research fu
Ho, Varmus Address Serious Issues at Commencements
Ho, Varmus Address Serious Issues at Commencements
Commencement ceremonies this spring at many colleges and universities across the country honored not only graduating students, but scientists hailing from a variety of fields. In recognition of their achievements, dozens of scientists received honorary degrees; some also offered words of advice to graduates. The speeches included the usual all-important cliches: Strive to be your best. Take risks. Seize opportunities. Retain your individuality. Learn for the sake of learning. However, several s

Cartoon

Cartoon
Cartoon
"That's Dr. Bradshaw. If you ask him how many degrees he has, he answers in kilograms."

Clarification

CLARIFICATION
CLARIFICATION
Volume 12, No. 14The Scientist July 6, 1998 CLARIFICATION Date: July 6, 1998 The research on the gas additive MTBE by Glenda J. Moser (G.J. Moser et al., Toxicological Sciences, 41:77-87, 1998) mentioned in a story on investigations in the field (S.P. Hoffert, The Scientist, 12[13]:7, June 22, 1998) was done exclusively at the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Letter

Text-Based Informatics
Text-Based Informatics
I enjoyed the article on [Don R.] Swanson's and [Neil R.] Smalheiser's ARROWSMITH program for finding hidden connections in MEDLINE (R. Finn, The Scientist, 12[10]:12, May 11, 1998). I also found the cited opinions of critics and skeptics to be specious. The claim that "everyone has some skepticism that you can find something new from what's already out there" in the medical literature is curious, since the world is certainly "out there" and scientists find new things all the time. Diseases,
The Role of Tenure
The Role of Tenure
The Role of Tenure I enjoyed [Dominique G.] Homberger's and [A. Ravi P.] Rau's measured and carefully argued defense of research and tenure in the university ( The Scientist, 12[10]:8, May 11, 1998). I have often found myself defending the tenure system, but I would like to take a few of the authors' points and play devil's advocate. Tenure is frequently justified as something more than a rigid seniority system; it is elevated as a defense of free and critical inquiry. Yet the tenure system

Commentary

I Had a Dream ... about Uncitedness
I Had a Dream ... about Uncitedness
My first paper proposing the creation of the Science Citation Index® (Science, 122(3159): 108-111, 1955) began with a quotation from P. Thomasson and J.C. Stanley: "The uncritical citation of disputed data by a writer, whether it be deliberate or not, is a serious matter. Of course, knowingly propagandizing unsubstantiated claims is particularly abhorrent, but just as many naïve students may be swayed by unfounded assertions presented by a writer who is unaware of the criticisms. Burie

Opinion

Should Suicide of the VA Health Care System Be Condoned?
Should Suicide of the VA Health Care System Be Condoned?
If the Veterans Administration (VA) health care system could be kept from becoming the world's worst health maintenance organization (HMO), could it serve as an expanded Public Health Service? A number of ominous signs suggest that the VA health care system may not exist much longer. Its aging patient population, 50 percent of whom are World War II and Korean War veterans, will never be replaced, because nuclear weapons have made large standing armies obsolete. And the 90 percent of Vietnam-er

Research

Long-Term vs. Short-Term Impact: Part II
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Impact: Part II
Date: July 6, 1998Cumulative Impact Factors In the February 2, 1998 issue of The Scientist (12[3]:11-12), we published the list of the 100 highest-impact journals for the period 1981-95. This study emphasized long-term cumulative impact rather than short-term or current impact. The main focus of these data were the articles published in 1981-82. We chose these two years so that 15 years of cumulative citations could be compiled. To many of our readers, these years must seem remote. But for some

Hot Paper

Leptin (part 2)
Leptin (part 2)
M.W. Schwartz, D.G. Baskin, T.R. Bukowski, J.L. Kuijper, D. Foster, G. Lasser, D.E. Prunkard, D. Porte Jr., S.C. Woods, R.J. Seeley, D.S. Weigle, "Specificity of Leptin Action on Elevated Blood Glucose Levels and Hypothalamic Neuropeptide Y Gene Expression in ob/ob Mice," Diabetes, 45: 531-5, 1996. (Cited more than 150 times since publication) Comments by Michael W. Schwartz, professor of medicine, University of Washington and Puget Sound Health Care System. Few discoveries like that of the o
Leptin
Leptin
M. Rosenbaum, M. Nicolson, J. Hirsch, S.B. Heymsfield, D. Gallagher, F. Chu, R.L. Leibel, "Effects of Gender, Body Composition, and Menopause on Plasma Concentrations of Leptin," Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 81:3424-7, 1996. (Cited more than 85 times since publication) Comments by Michael Rosenbaum, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University. The discovery of the obese (ob) gene by a group of investigators led by Jeffrey Friedman and Rudolph L.

Profession

Two Distinct Career Paths Offer Clear Choices
Two Distinct Career Paths Offer Clear Choices
Big Pharma: Big markets. Traditional science. Big future and lofty salaries. Biotech: Lots of competition for smaller markets. Cutting-edge science. Iffy future, but tempting stock options. Such are the widely held perceptions regarding the industry sectors that employ life science researchers. Those perceptions have become clichés, and like all great clichés, they're not altogether accurate--but they do contain a kernel of truth. The real truth is, the maturing biotech industr

Technology

Chemdex: The On-Line Market for Bioscience
Chemdex: The On-Line Market for Bioscience
From inventory to the laboratory, the requisition of chemicals for research has just entered the computer age. David Perry's Chemdex Corp., an on-line marketplace for chemicals, may revolutionize the way researchers obtain specialty biochemicals in the research industry. Until recently, the process of ordering chemicals for research has had all the convenience and much of the flavor of a Persian bazaar. With hundreds of manufacturers and distributors vying with one another for a share of this
96-Well Chromatography With The Multiscreen(R) Assay System
96-Well Chromatography With The Multiscreen(R) Assay System
Sample isolation and preparation often creates a bottleneck in the execution and automation of high throughput processes. To address this issue, Millipore has recently adapted its MultiScreen Assay System to perform chromatographic separations. This adaptation enables researchers to purify many samples simultaneously and provides a platform that facilitates automation. The MultiScreen approach has been used successfully to perform several types of chromatographic separation (for example, size

Technology Profile

The Quest For Pure DNA: Genomic DNA: The Root Of All Molecular Genetic Research
The Quest For Pure DNA: Genomic DNA: The Root Of All Molecular Genetic Research
Date: July 6, 1998Genomic DNA Isolation Kits The first isolation of DNA is generally credited to Friedrich Miescher, who in the late 1860s was studying proteins, which were discovered a mere three decades earlier. Proteins and DNA--what's the relationship? While attempting to investigate the characteristics of protein in pus cells, Miescher noticed that weakly alkaline cellular extracts, when neutralized, yielded a precipitate; however, the precipitate did not exhibit any of the then known pro

Notebook

Notebook
Notebook
PHANTOM PAIN GUT-WRENCHING STORY PACEMAKER IN THE BRAIN THE SCOOP ON DINO DINING SUMATRAN TIGER, A DISTINCT SPECIES FUNGUS AMONG US HONORABLE QUARTET FROM GM PAIN EXPLAINED: Washington University's Min Zhuo found that a region of the brain in rats could activate neurons in the spinal cord, possibly causing feelings of pain without any external stimulation. PHANTOM PAIN Results from a Washington University study bring up new questions about your high-school gym teacher's old proclamations tha