TS Picks: August 9, 2016

Gene therapy money-back guarantee; the brain benefits from bilingualism; Q&A with a science watchdog

Aug 9, 2016
Bob Grant


Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:


  • UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is marketing a gene therapy, available to European patients, which—according to MIT Technology Review—will come with a money-back guarantee. And that’s a good thing: the single-use treatment, called Strimvelis, costs €594,000 ($665,000). “The drug has to deliver what you say or we don’t pay,” Luca Pani, director general of the Italian Medicines Agency, which set the price and terms during negotiations with GSK, told Tech Review. “If it does not work, they will return the money.” Strimvelis was approved by the European Commission earlier this year for the treatment of ADA-SCID, a rare immune disorder usually seen in children.
  • Being bilingual may be good for something more than navigating a foreign country. Building on research that has pointed to the cognitive benefits of bilingualism in young children, a new wave of experimental and observational insight is suggesting that multilingualism is not only good for our brains, processing more than one language may be human’s natural state. “Such results suggest bilingualism helps keep us mentally fit,” according to a Mosaic story published this week (August 7). “It may even be an advantage that evolution has positively selected for in our brains—an idea supported by the ease with which we learn new languages and flip between them, and by the pervasiveness of bilingualism throughout world history.”
  • Retraction Watch has a Q&A with one of the unsung heroes of keeping science honest: German science writer and retraction watchdog Rolf Degen. “For the longest part, my engagement was driven by unbridled obsession and a naive, unswerving trust in that incorruptible voice of truth and wisdom, the scientific enterprise,” said Degen. “That is, until Retraction Watch and related voices disseminated the sobering recognition that, all too often, the so-called incorruptible voice has a skeleton in the closet.”