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Tuesday, May 26, 2009


US Stem Cell Guidelines Issued

The Obama administration issued guidelines late last week limiting government funds for embryonic stem cell research only to cells from excess fertility clinic embryos. The compromise appears to have more to do with political realities than science. Still, the action will mean that tax dollars may begin flowing to such research as early as this autumn.

Related article from The Washington Post:
Compromise Rules Issued on Embryonic Stem Cells

The Obama administration issued guidelines yesterday limiting government-sponsored embryonic stem cell research to cells taken from excess fertility clinic embryos, a compromise based on its reading of public opinion about the cutting-edge science.

The decision fell short of the open-ended policy some scientists and patient advocates had hoped for, but is far less likely to spark controversy. It also will mean that tax dollars could begin flowing as early as fall to projects involving hundreds of new stem cell clusters.

Raynard S. Kington, acting director of the National Institutes of Health, said yesterday that the administration was guided by "broad public support" in establishing a policy that prohibits creation of embryos for research purposes as well as any type of therapeutic cloning.

Specifically, NIH modeled its approach after legislation that twice passed Congress, he explained. Those votes are "the strongest indication of public support," he told reporters yesterday morning. "There is not similar broad support for using stem cells from other sources."

Ironically, one of the chief architects of that legislation, Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), said yesterday that although he was pleased by the NIH action, "there is opportunity for more expansive guidelines."

Some proponents of aggressive research policies expressed disappointment in President Obama, who stressed a month ago that science ought not be hampered by political considerations.

"I am really, really startled," said Susan L. Solomon, chief executive of the private New York Stem Cell Foundation. "This seems to be a political calculus when what we want in this country is a scientific research calculus."

Researchers have long touted the potential of embryonic stem cells in treating an array of illnesses because of their unique ability to morph into any tissue in the body. Scientists say the stem cells could eventually lead to therapies for Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and diabetes.

But the work has always been controversial because extracting clusters of stem cells requires destroying the embryo.

In August 2001, citing those ethical concerns, President George W. Bush announced that federally funded research would be limited to two dozen cell lines that had already been harvested.

Last month, surrounded by patient advocates and prominent scientists, Obama signed an executive order lifting the Bush restrictions.

But yesterday, one of the activists who had attended the Obama event complained bitterly that the process became "much more political than we thought it would be. This is extremely limiting," he said, asking that he not be identified criticizing the president.

Others, however, hailed the guidelines as a practical approach to complex cutting-edge science.

Calling the policy "thoughtful and balanced," Richard Laser, a spokesman for the nonpartisan think tank Third Way, said it "demonstrates President Obama's commitment to finding shared values on an issue that has long been divisive."

Scientists have long complained that the Bush-era restrictions severely slowed progress in one of the more promising areas of research today. The new policy focuses almost entirely on types of research that have been proved to be feasible, as opposed to certain types of cloning techniques that to date have not been successfully completed.

"They did not choose to write guidelines for hypothetical research," said R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin. "They wrote guidelines for the research that is going on and needs to go on. It's a very pragmatic solution."

Given the highly charged atmosphere of the past several years and the fact that NIH is spending taxpayer money, officials wanted "guidelines that reflect what the general public has endorsed," said James F. Battey Jr., vice chair of the NIH stem cell task force.

Pointing to the experience of harvesting viable organs from patients who are brain-dead, he stressed that both science and public sentiment can change.

"As a country, we worked our way through that," he said. Obama's executive order instructs NIH to periodically update the guidelines, Battey said, "and we have every intention of doing that."

Although there is no new money designated specifically for stem cell research, NIH received $10 billion in stimulus funds. Officials have said a portion of that money could be distributed in grants to stem cell projects.

The guidelines, which will be open for a 30-day public comment period, also spell out the written consent that scientists must secure from embryo donors. Broadly speaking, donation is permitted only if it is made voluntarily, without pressure or financial inducement. Most often, the cell lines come from couples that have completed fertility treatments and do not need their remaining embryos.

But informed consent procedures have shifted over the years and several scientists doubt the cell lines being used under the Bush policy will meet the new consent standards.

"Many laboratories spent years [studying] those existing lines. They know how to grow them and work with them," said Sean J. Morrison, director of the University of Michigan's Center for Stem Cell Biology. If those lines are no longer eligible for federal grants, "they're going to have to start from scratch."

Battey said he understands why scientists would want to continue ongoing studies, but he was equally cognizant of the "inconsistency" in having different consent standards for different clusters of cells.

"We are awaiting public comment about how to handle that tricky issue," he said in an interview. NIH is expected to issue the final regulation in early July.

By Ceci Connolly

Monday, May 25, 2009


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Thursday, May 21, 2009


Best Places to Work for Postdocs 2009

The Top 15 U.S. Institutions:
1. Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research,
Cambridge, MA
2. The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME
3. The J. David Gladstone Institutes,
San Francisco, CA
4. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK
5. Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM
6. Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research,
Cambridge, MA
7. Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, WA
8. Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH,
Hamilton, MT
9. Genentech Inc., South San Francisco, CA
10. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
11. Oak Ridge Associated Universities,
Oak Ridge, TN
12. Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA
13. Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL
14. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,
Seattle, WA
15. Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Rapids, MI

The Top 10 International Institutions:
1. Max Plank Institute of Molecular Cell Biology
and Genetics, Germany
2. University of Copenhagen, Denmark
3. University of Medical Center, Utrecht,
The Netherlands
4. University of Dundee, UK
5. University of York, UK
6. John Innes Center, UK
7. Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research,
8. Biozentrum, University of Basel,
9. University of Liege, Belgium
10. Karolinska Institute, Sweden


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The National Academy of Sciences Elected 72 New Members

The National Academy of Sciences announced the election of 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 15 countries in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

The election was held this morning during the business session of the 146th annual meeting of the Academy. Those elected today bring the total number of active members to 2,150. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States. Today's election brings the total number of foreign associates to 404.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the Academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

Newly elected members and their affiliations at the time of election are:

Ahmed, Rafi; professor, department of microbiology and immunology, and director, Emory Vaccine Center, Emory University, Atlanta

Bebbington, Anthony J.; professor of nature, society, and development, and director of research, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom

Beese, Lorena S.; James B. Duke Professor, department of biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.

Bergquist, James C.; fellow, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, Colo.

Borisy, Gary G.; director and chief executive officer, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass.

Carlson, Marian B.; professor, department of genetics and development and department of microbiology, Columbia University, New York City

Chang, Sun-Yung Alice; professor, department of mathematics, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.

Copeland, Neal G.; executive director, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Proteos, Singapore

Coppersmith, Susan N.; professor of physics, department of physics, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Deift, Percy A.; professor, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, New York City

Dougherty, Dennis; George Grant Hoag Professor of Chemistry, division of chemistry and chemical engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Dunlap, Jay C.; professor of biochemistry and chair, department of genetics, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, N.H.

Feigon, Juli; professor, department of chemistry and biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

Filippenko, Alexei V.; Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences, department of astronomy, University of California, Berkeley

Fischer, Robert L.; Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology, department of plant and microbial biology, University of California, Berkeley

Gibbard, AlLan; Richard B. Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy, department of philosophy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Goldstein, Melvyn C.; co-director, Center for Research on Tibet, and John Reynolds Harkness Professor of Anthropology, department of anthropology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland

Hake, Sarah; director, USDA Plant Gene Expression Center; and full adjunct professor, department of plant and microbial biology, University of California, Berkeley

Hanahan, Doug; member, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and professor of biochemistry and biophysics, University of California, San Francisco

Harwood, Caroline S.; professor, department of microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle

Hopcroft, John E.; professor, computer science department, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Hughes, Thomas J.R.; Mathematics Chair III, Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES), and professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, University of Texas, Austin

Isberg, Ralph R.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor, department of molecular biology and microbiology, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston

Jacak, Barbara V.; Distinguished Professor of Physics, department of physics and astronomy, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Jacks, Tyler; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and David H. Koch Professor of Biology and director, David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Jain, Rakesh K.; Andrew Werk Cook Professor of Tumor Biology and director, Edwin L. Steele Laboratory, department of radiation oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Joannopoulos, John D.; Francis Wright Davis Professor of Physics, department of physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Jordan, V. Craig; vice president and research director for medical sciences, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia

Klein, Michael L.; Hepburn Professor of Physical Science, department of chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Kohlstedt, David L.; Institute of Technology Distinguished Professor of Geology and Geophysics and head, N.H. Winchell School of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Krieger, Monty; Whitehead Professor of Molecular Genetics, department of biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Lowy, Douglas R.; deputy director, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Lynch, Michael; Distinguished Professor of Biology, department of biology, Indiana University, Bloomington

Manski, Charles F.; Board of Trustees Professor in Economics, department of economics, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

Meltzer, David J.; Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory and executive director, QUEST Archaeological Research Program, department of anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas

Meyer, David E.; professor of psychology, cognition and perception program, department of psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Montminy, Marc R.; professor, Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, Calif.

Morel, François M.M.; director, Center for Environmental Bioinorganic Chemistry, and Albert G. Blanke Jr. Professor of Geosciences, department of geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.

Morgan, John W.; professor of mathematics, department of mathematics, Columbia University, New York City

Mosley-Thompson, Ellen S.; professor, department of geography, and senior research scientist, Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, Columbus

Myerson, Roger B.; Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor, department of economics, University of Chicago, Chicago

Nikaido, Hiroshi; professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, department of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley

Nocera, Daniel G.; Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy, and professor of chemistry, department of chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Olivera, Baldomero M.; Distinguished Professor of Biology, department of biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Papadimitriou, Christos; C. Lester Hogan Professor, computer science division, University of California, Berkeley

Patel, Dinshaw J.; Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Chair in Experimental Physics, and member, structural biology program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City

Peale, Stanton J.; professor emeritus and research professor of physics, department of physics, University of California, Santa Barbara

Poo, Mu-ming; Paul Licht Distinguished Professor in Biology, department of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley

Poulter, C. Dale; John A. Widtsoe Distinguished Professor, department of chemistry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Raftery, Adrian; Blumstein-Jordan Professor of Statistics and Sociology, Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle

Raikhel, Alexander S.; professor, department of entomology, University of California, Riverside

Ricklefs, Robert E.; Curators Professor of Biology, department of biology, University of Missouri, St. Louis

Riess, Adam G.; professor of physics and astronomy, department of physics and astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; and astronomer, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore

Roeder, G. Shirleen; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Eugene Higgins Professor of Genetics, department of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

, Frank J.; Pupin Professor of Physics Emeritus, department of physics, Columbia University, New York City

Sedat, John W.; professor of biochemistry, department of biochemistry and biophysics, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Shearer, Peter M.; professor of geophysics, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla

Shokat, Kevan M.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, department of cellular and molecular pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco

Siggia, Eric D.; professor, Center for Studies in Physics and Biology, Rockefeller University, New York City

Sternberg, Paul W.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Thomas Hunt Morgan Professor of Biology, division of biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Strang, Gilbert; professor of mathematics, department of mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Stryker, Michael P.; William F. Ganong Endowed Chair in Physiology, department of physiology, University of California, San Francisco

Taylor, Shelley E.; Distinguished Professor, department of psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

Truhlar, Donald G.; Regents Professor, department of chemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Vafa, Cumrun; Donner Professor of Science, department of physics, Center for Fundamental Laws of Nature, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Warshel, Arieh; professor of chemistry and biochemistry, department of chemistry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Weeks, John D.; Distinguished University Professor, Institute for Physical Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park

Weigel, Detlef; director, department of molecular biology, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tuebingen, Germany

Weissman, Jonathan S.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, department of cellular and molecular pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco

Wong, Wing H.; professor of statistics and professor of health research and policy, department of statistics, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Xie, Yu; Otis Dudley Duncan Distinguished University Professor of Sociology, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Zipursky, S. Lawrence; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor, department of biological chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

Newly elected foreign associates, their affiliations at the time of election, and their country of citizenship are:

Akira, Shizuo; director, Immunology Frontier Research Center, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan (Japan)

Berners-Lee, Timothy; director, World Wide Web Consortium, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (United Kingdom)

Corkum, Paul B.; director, Institute for Molecular Sciences, Attosecond Science Program Steacie, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa (Canada)

Cossart, Pascale; director and head, Unite des Interactions Bacteries Cellules, Institut Pasteur, Paris (France)

Díaz, Sandra M.; associate professor, Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal (IMBIV), Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina (Argentina)

Helenius, Ari; professor of biochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (Finland)

Jacobs, Patricia A.; director, Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratory, University of Southampton, Wiltshire, United Kingdom (United Kingdom)

Kondo, Jun; emeritus adviser, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Tsukuba, Japan (Japan)

Lambeck, Kurt; Distinguished Professor of Geophysics, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Acon (Australia)

Lambin, Eric F.; professor, department of geography and geology, University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (Belgium)

Logothetis, Nikos K.; director, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tuebingen, Germany (Greece)

Mansfield, Peter; emeritus professor of physics, Magnetic Resonance Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom (United Kingdom)

Salmond, Mary Anne; Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Maori Studies, department of Maori studies, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand (New Zealand)

Sandmo, Agnar; emeritus professor, Norwegian School of Economics and Business, Bergen (Norway)

Schuster, Peter; president, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna (Austria)

Shin, Hee-Sup; director, Center for Neural Science, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul (South Korea)

Tocchini-Valentini, Glauco P.; coordinator, Istituto di Biologia Cellulare, National Research Council of Italy, Monterotondo Scalo (Italy)

zur Hausen, Harald; scientific director emeritus, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg (Germany)


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