Category Archives: London

Sacked drugs advisor launches private panel

The scientist fired from the British government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) last year has launched a privately funded scientific committee to advise the public on the risks of drug use.

David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist from Imperial College in London, was dropped from the ACMD in October after his remarks contradicting the government’s classification of marijuana reached the press. Last month he announced the launch of his group, the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD). Continue reading Sacked drugs advisor launches private panel

Plans for alien contact found wanting

Enormous satellite dishes make up the search party for extraterrestrial life, but in the event of success, should a welcome party follow? Astronomers and biologists involved in the search for life on other planets are worried about a lack of regulatory and ethical policies to guide them.

“No government has plans” for what to do in the event of the discovery of intelligent extraterrestrial life, says astrophysicist Martin Dominik of the University of St Andrews, UK, who organized a conference at the Royal Society in London that began today

Read the entire news story at Nature News [html] or here [pdf]

(Stem cell) banking crisis

stemcellbankingLike most stem cell biologists, Helen Mardon obtained her first cell lines from someone she knew. Later, when she needed more material, she chose to pay for a line from a commercial dealer. Eventually, the Oxford Stem Cell Institute co-director derived her own in-house human embryonic stem cell core from embryos donated by in vitro fertilization patients.

Mardon could have gotten human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines for the cost of delivery from the UK Stem Cell Bank (SCB), one of a handful of stem cells banks worldwide (See A bank in England for stem cells). Supported by government funds, the bank stores, distributes and provides ethical oversight of hESC lines in Britain free of charge to academic and commercial researchers. The samples they distribute are top notch: a half-dozen bench researchers screen their stocks to ensure banked lines are free from viral infections or mycoplasma contamination, and routine checks are also completed before lines are shipped. But for now, Mardon says, “going through the bank just adds a huge layer of paperwork and bureaucracy”.

Continue reading (Stem cell) banking crisis

Taking a fossil primate on the road

Jørn Hurum has accompanied the fossilized primate he nicknamed Ida on a world tour to fame and notoriety in the last week. The 47-million-year-old fossil is famous for its haunting completeness — the outlines of its fur and its last meal appear like a shadow around the intact skeleton. Yet Hurum has drawn fire for promoting the fossil and its potential links to human ancestors through a multi-platform media campaign alongside the release of a scientific paper that describes the fossil’s genealogy more modestly. Today, he and Ida paused in London to discuss the fallout of the publicity and the next scientific steps. Continue reading Taking a fossil primate on the road