Week in Review: February 6–10

Two potential Science Advisors to the President talk federal funding, climate change research, science marches, and more; a conversation with Iranian-American geneticist Pardis Sabeti; standards for teaching evolution in Texas could change; bioengineers debut a stomach acid–powered ingestible sensor; toward killing cancer with bacteria; ecDNA and tumor evolution

Feb 10, 2017
Tracy Vence

Potential Science Advisors to the President

Computer scientist David Gelernter of Yale and physicist William Happer of Princeton have both met with President Donald Trump to discuss the roles of Science Advisor to the President and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In interviews with The Scientist, Gelernter and Happer expressed their views on federal funding, climate change research, the planned science marches and more. “Trump is not walking around pontificating on science,” said Gelernter. “He has no science policy.”

It is unclear how many other people are being considered for the role. A White House spokesperson said he could not provide further information.

Organic chemist Donna Nelson of the University of Oklahoma told The Scientist she was contacted by the Trump transition team prior to the inauguration. She has not heard from the administration since. “The Science Advisor to the President is going to have to work across a lot of different communities and a lot of different science positions,” Nelson told The Scientist.

See “Q&A: David Gelernter, Possible Science Advisor to the President

See “Q&A: William Happer, Possible Science Advisor to the President

A conversation with Iranian-American scientist Pardis Sabeti

Geneticist Pardis Sabeti of Harvard emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a small child. Now, she runs a more-than 30–person lab that’s working to better understand the genetics of Ebola viruses, among other things. Her group is staffed by several foreign-born researchers. “They’re just individuals wanting to make a positive impact in the world, and they’re trying to find a place to be able to do it,” Sabeti told The Scientist. “We really just need to support people to do that work.”

US scientists born in Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia: We’d like to speak with you. Please email tvence@the-scientist.com.

Teaching science in Texas

Changes to the language public school teachers in the Lone Star State use to teach evolution may be coming, as the Texas Board of Education last week voted in favor of draft revisions to science education standards. The proposed changes, said Texas Science Education Leadership Association President Cynthia Ontiveros, “[undermine] the teachers’ input and [support] a personal agenda that is being imposed by state board members.”

The matter is now open for public comment; the board will cast final ballots in April.

Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky ask “Should Scientists Engage in Activism?

Engineered Salmonella seek out tumors

In mice, modified Salmonella typhimurium bacteria successfully colonized and shrunk experimental tumors, researchers reported in Science Translational Medicine this week (February 8).

EcDNA and tumor evolution

Scientists found extra-chromosomal DNA (ecDNA) harboring oncogenes across a variety of tumor cells lines. In a Nature paper published this week (February 8), the team proposed that ecDNA could play a bigger role in tumor heterogeneity and evolution than previously thought.

Stomach acid–powered ingestible sensor

A large, pill-like device can survive the harsh environment of a model porcine stomach, wirelessly reporting temperature data via an onboard sensor, researchers reported in Nature Biomedical Engineering this week (February 6).

Other news in life science

Science Policy Recap: February 9, 2017
While the executive order on immigration continues to affect scientists, a coalition of public interest groups is suing the Trump administration, alleging that the president’s executive order on regulations “exceeds [his] constitutional authority.”

USDA Removes Animal Welfare Data From Public Website
Citing privacy concerns, the US Department of Agriculture will no longer make animal welfare inspection reports and enforcement records public.

Regulators OK Clinical Trials Using Donor Stem Cells
Japanese health officials approve human experiments to treat macular degeneration with a cell therapy derived from induced pluripotent stem cells.

Newest Life Science Additions to the Dictionary
Need help explaining CRISPR, epigenome, or rock snot? The Merriam-Webster dictionary has you covered.