A Scientist’s Roadmap to Capitol Hill

Follow the money that drives science research in the United States, and more often than not you’ll end up in Washington, D.C. The dollars don’t reach labs on their own, though: Institutions, interest groups, and individuals help legislators decide what to fund — and science competes with every other federal program for resources.

This year scientific research is one of the few areas slated to gain ground in the proposed federal budget, but that budget is not law yet. “If people want to see the research and development funding increase they’re going to need to get up there and say, ‘Look we feel that we need those increases, they’re vital for the future, they’re vital for job creation [and] our future economic competitiveness,’” said Bob Simon, staff director of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, at a session of the American Association of the Advancement of Science conference, on Saturday in San Diego, California.

See the entire blog post at Science Careers: [html]

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Peruvian GM advocate faces criminal charges

A molecular biologist could face a prison sentence for criticizing a report on transgenic gene spread. Ernesto Bustamante Donayre, vice president of the Peruvian College of Biologists, a professional organization, stands accused of defamation, a criminal offense, which in Peru can carry a prison term or fine. What triggered the suit was his public criticism of a report prepared by Antonietta Ornella Gutiérrez Rosati, a biologist at the La Molina National Agricultural University in Lima, identifying a P34S promoter and NK603 and BT11 transgenes in 14 of 42 maize samples from the Barranca region. Gutiérrez sent summaries of her findings to both the National Agricultural Research Institute and El Comercio newspaper in 2007 calling for a moratorium on transgenic crops until biosafety regulations are in place to prevent the spread to human food. Bustamante, a frequent contributor to radio and print, with no financial links to crop companies, described the alleged detection of three simultaneous transgenic events from two firms as “absurdly improbable” in his newspaper column and called for her claims to be peer reviewed.

See the rest of this news story on Nature Biotechnology’s website [html] or as it appeared in print [pdf]

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Date and create

The offspring of a speed-dating mixer between young scientists and designers is exhibited at London’s Dana Centre this week. On display are prototypes of three designs that communicate the broad themes of energy and recycling, synthetic and systems biology and imaging. The winning entries were selected from the ideas of 30 pairs of graduate students who were introduced at an interdisciplinary speed-dating event in May last year.

See the rest of the review on Nature’s website [html] or as it appeared in print: [pdf]

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Slump in UK trials blamed on strict rules

Britain’s historically strong role in clinical trials seems to be diminishing. Slow returns on drug investment and poor relations between industry and the UK National Health Service (NHS) have been cited as two reasons for this decline.

The slump has occurred despite more funding. Pharmaceutical investment in the UK between 1999 and 2007 grew from £2.5 billion ($4.4 billion) to £4.5 billion—jumping from 22% to 28% of Britain’s total industry research and development investment, according to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. Kent Woods, chief executive of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said in a statement that the annual number of applications to run UK clinical trials has remained between 1,000 and 1,200 in recent years and that rejection rates have remained stable at 1–2% a year.

But the UK’s share of global clinical trials shrank from 6% to 2% from 2000 to 2006, according to figures provided to the country’s Department of Health by the Centre for Medicines Research, a British consultancy. And the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has now said that the total numbers of commercial clinical trial applications in 2007, 2008 and 2009 were 853, 979, and 759, respectively.

See the rest of this news story on Nature Medicine’s website [html] or as it appeared in print: [pdf]

One of my sources posted his complete comments on his blog at Clinical Research focus: [html]

British researchers subsequently published a letter to the editor in Nature Medicine explaining a trial improvement program: [html]

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