June 2000

News

Biotech Start-Ups
Biotech Start-Ups
Graphic: Cathleen Heard Twenty years ago, venture capitalists knew little about biotechnology. The scientific community knew only a fraction more. "With respect to immune system hormones, not a single interleukin gene had been cloned by 1981. No cytokine had actually been purified to molecular homogeneity," writes Steven Gillis, chairman and CEO of Corixa Corp., a Seattle-based immunotherapeutics company.1 Gillis recollects that preclinical efficacy data in animals did not exist for the earliest
Elusive Gamma-Secretase Identified
Elusive Gamma-Secretase Identified
Model of an inhibitor targeted to g-secretase interacting with presenilin. The background shows an Alzheimer's brain that carried a presenilin mutation, with immunohistochemistry revealing abundant amyloid plaques (red-orange patches). For years researchers have been perplexed by the identity of g-secretase, an enzyme that cuts amyloid precursor protein (APP) into amyloid ß (Aß) fragments that form telltale plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Now researchers from Merck Rese
Gene Therapy Soldiers On
Gene Therapy Soldiers On
Vical Inc.'s naked DNA nonviral delivery technology Even as gene transfer research endures criticism for inadequate clinical trial monitoring and underreporting of adverse events, the first several treatments are poised to enter final stages of development. Gene therapy for cancers of the skin and kidney, for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) or "bubble boy" disease, and for hemophilia B, all have produced promising early clinical trial results, attendees were told during the American Soc
60 Members Elected to NAS
60 Members Elected to NAS
Editor's Note: On May 2, the National Academy of Sciences announced the election of 60 new members and 15 foreign associates from nine countries in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Nearly half of the new members are life scientists. In this article, The Scientist presents photographs of some of the new members and comments from a few of them on their careers and on past and current research. A full directory of NAS members can be found online a
Coastal 'Dead Zones' Get Attention
Coastal 'Dead Zones' Get Attention
Courtesy of Charles S. Hopkinson Jr.Brackish tidal marsh along the Plum Island estuary in northeastern Massachusetts Lessons learned decades ago resurfaced this spring when the National Research Council of the National Academies issued a report calling for a nationwide plan to combat the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution threatening U.S. coastal waters. Lesson one: Ecosystems are interdependent. Lesson two: Virtually every human being is part of the problem and can be part of the solution. "We
News Notes
News Notes
Acknowledging that it is important for medical schools to adapt educational programs to changes in the real world, Michael Whitcomb, senior vice president for medical education at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), explains, "Successful medical education will produce doctors who are effective practitioners." The AAMC is establishing three Medical School Objective Project (MSOP) expert panels on health care quality, clinical research, and basic science. The MSOP was started four

Letter

Scientists Lobbying Congress
Scientists Lobbying Congress
Efforts by distinguished biomedical scientists to press Congress to provide increased funding were portrayed in a recent article1 as having originated in 1990 or thereabouts. This article, though accurate about the past decade of these important and highly successful endeavors, failed to note the key precursor: the Delegation for Basic Biomedical Research, formed in 1977. The members of this group were selected by its founder, Mahlon Hoagland of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology,
COX-2 Patents
COX-2 Patents
I applaud your continued efforts to bring business and legal issues to the attention of the scientific community.1 However, there are a few points that I wish to make. First, the subhead "Awarding of patent may only reflect who filed first," while titillating, is clearly legally incorrect under U.S. patent law. In the United States the first to invent any new and useful article of manufacture or method is the true inventor and entitled to a patent, if the inventor satisfies the disclosure, descr

Commentary

Bringing Coastal 'Dead Zones' Back to Life
Bringing Coastal 'Dead Zones' Back to Life
Each spring, the area in the Gulf of Mexico just off the Louisiana and Texas coasts turns into a "dead zone." Excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus--which make their way to the Gulf from the atmosphere and via rivers polluted with agricultural runoff and municipal and industrial waste--trigger algal blooms. The algae use up available oxygen, killing bottom-dwellers such as oysters, clams, and snails, and driving away fish, shrimp, and crabs. And it isn't just the Gulf area that is affec

Research

A Good Side to Nicotine?
A Good Side to Nicotine?
A Good Side to Nicotine?
Nicotine holds promise for treating diseases such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and schizophrenia. "Nicotine is a very simple molecule, and it affects receptors of many subtypes; therefore, the consequences, behavioral and biologic, are very broad," says Neil Grunberg, director of the Psychoendocrinology and Biochemistry Laboratory at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Nicotinic receptors control the release of
Research Notes
Research Notes
Putting Polio to Good Use Add polio to a host of other viral and bacterial foes that, in modified forms, could prove therapeutically beneficial. Although Russian scientists attempted to use polio to treat cancer in the 1960s--unpublished experiments about which little is known--a recent brain cancer study in mice is the first modern-day attempt to harness the power of the virus (M. Gromeier et al., "Intergeneric poliovirus recombinants for the treatment of malignant glioma," Proceedings of the

Hot Paper

Helpers and Killers
Helpers and Killers
For this article, Ricki Lewis interviewed Polly Matzinger, section head for T-cell tolerance and memory at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, William Heath, senior research fellow in the immunology division of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, and Stephen P. Schoenberger, assistant member in the division of immune regulation at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. Data from the Web of Science (ISI, Philadelphia) show that

Technology

Wired
Wired
Many researchers avoid grappling with new techniques when a familiar procedure yields reliable results. This reluctance prevails even when new kits or reagents could save considerable time and effort. Early last year, Stanford University labmates Dean Hung and Trevor Bezdek devised a remedy to this long-standing tradition with the launch of Biowire.com, a forum for scientists to give their opinions on products, kits, reagents, and equipment. "What [the founders] realized is that whenever they h
Seeing Red
Seeing Red
HeLa cell expressing CLONTECH's DsRed in mitochondria and Cyan Fluorescent Protein in the nucleus, visualized by overlaying fluorescence microscopy images Green fluorescent protein (GFP), isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, has been a valuable tool for researchers monitoring gene expression and protein distribution in living cells. Part of the appeal of using GFP to track gene expression is that it does not require addition of substrates or cofactors for detection, but is visualized
Scale It Up
Scale It Up
Eppendorf-5 Prime's PERFECTprep-96VAC Quad Vacuum Manifold High throughput may be the wave of the future, but most laboratories must still perform smaller-scale procedures at various steps in an investigation. For the many researchers who don't have access to automated systems for DNA purification, Eppendorf-5 Prime Inc. of Boulder, Colo., offers the PERFECTprep-96VAC Quad Vacuum Manifold, a tool for manually purifying DNA rapidly. The system is based on a time-tested alkaline lysis protocol

Technology Profile

Field of Dreams
Field of Dreams
Magnetic Separation Systems Suppliers of Magnetic Microspheres for a Variety of Applications Labsystems' KingFisher Magnetic Particle Processor plunges into the magnetic separation scene. Since LabConsumer's last profile of magnetic bead technology, the use of paramagnetic particles in biological separations and detection has exploded.1 However, development of processing technologies has lagged behind refinements of the beads themselves. The instrumentation emerging within the last few years
PCR on the Run
PCR on the Run
PCR Template Preparation Kits Epicentre Technologies' MasterAmp Buccal Swab DNA Extraction Kit Among the thousands of kits and products available to the life scientist, many provide a means of purifying genomic and plasmid DNA.1 Though most of these prepare highly purified DNA for specific applications such as Southern blotting, fluorescent automated sequencing, and RFLP analysis, some are designed to prepare DNA simply for use as PCR templates. Generally characterized as fast, easy, and eff

Profession

The 'Where' Factor, Part IV
The 'Where' Factor, Part IV
Jobs in the Southwest: Just a Sampling Editor's Note: Continuing our five-part series on geographic issues that affect job hunting for life scientists, we now turn to the penultimate installment, the Southwest and west to Hawaii. Our boundaries may not be a true geographer's boundaries, but for our purposes, this area includes Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California, and Hawaii. In the next issue we'll discuss the Northwest, which will include Utah and Alaska. California, in particular the S

Opinion

Future Challenges to Human Subject Protection
Future Challenges to Human Subject Protection
Illustration: A. Canamucio The death of a young man, Jesse Gelsinger, in a 1999 gene therapy experiment has focused attention on the challenges of research with human subjects. This issue had been simmering just below the surface for the past eight years. The media reports on human subject abuses in a wide variety of research settings could sufficiently arouse public distrust of human research and endanger the recruitment of patients in future clinical trials. The explosive growth in res