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03/24/2017

World’s first full-body PET scanner could aid drug development, monitor environmental toxins

Science

Researchers are working to build the world’s first full-body PET scanner, which they claim will increase our power to understand what’s going on in our bodies through more vivid PET images and the opportunity to examine how the whole body responds to drugs and toxins.

03/23/2017

San people of Africa draft code of ethics for researchers

Science

The San people of Southern Africa are among the closest living relatives of our hunting and gathering ancestors. Scientists have flocked to study their age-old rituals and ancient genetic fingerprints. Now, after more than a century of being scrutinized by science, the San are demanding something back. Earlier this month the group unveiled a code of ethics for researchers wishing to study their culture, genes, or heritage.

03/22/2017

Monsanto Weed Killer Roundup Faces New Doubts on Safety in Unsealed Documents

New York Times

The reputation of Roundup, whose active ingredient is the world’s most widely used weed killer, took a hit on Tuesday when a federal court unsealed documents raising questions about its safety and the research practices of its manufacturer, the chemical giant Monsanto.

03/21/2017

Federal advisory panels agree Opana’s risks outweigh benefits

USA Today

The new extended-release version of Endo Pharmaceuticals’ Opana may even be more dangerous than the version it replaced, according to critics including the advocacy group Public Citizen. Two Food and Drug Administration advisory panels seemed to agree, voting 18 to 8 that it presents more risks than benefits to society. Next it’s up to the FDA to decide whether to act on the panels’ advice, which it generally does. Possible actions include changes to labels, restriction of prescriptions and an outright ban.

03/20/2017

Informed Patient? Don’t Bet On It

New York Times

As doctors, our goal is to help you, of course, and to do no harm. But we may actually hurt you, irreversibly. Not that this happens frequently, but it might. How does that sound? Ready to take the plunge? The secret is that informed consent in health care is commonly not-so-well informed. It might be a document we ask you to sign, at the behest of our lawyers, in case we end up in court if a bad outcome happens. Unfortunately, it’s often not really about informing you.

03/17/2017

Beware emotional robots: Giving feelings to artificial beings could backfire, study suggests

Science

Previous work has shown a discomfort with humanlike robots, with people ascribing more emotions to them. In a study published by the psychologists Kurt Gray of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Daniel Wegner in 2012, participants watched a brief video of a robot’s head either from the front, where they could see its “human” face, or from behind, where they saw electrical components. The ones who watched its face rated it as more capable of feeling pain and fear, and as a result they felt more “creeped out.”

03/16/2017

Should hospitals — and doctors — apologize for medical mistakes?

Washington Post

Spurred by concerns about the “deny and defend” model — including its cost, lack of transparency and the perpetuation of errors — programs to circumvent litigation by offering prompt disclosure, apology and compensation for mistakes as an alternative to malpractice suits are becoming more popular.

03/15/2017

OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Hit With Unprecedented Lawsuit by Washington City

NBC News

In January, the city filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against Purdue Pharma alleging the drug maker “supplied OxyContin to obviously suspicious physicians and pharmacies,” ultimately failing “to prevent the illegal diversion of OxyContin into the black market.”

While other suits against the company by states and municipalities have accused Purdue Pharma of deceptive marketing — allegedly playing up OxyContin’s effectiveness while playing down its addictiveness — Everett’s lawsuit is the first to claim the company knew its drugs were being diverted and did nothing to stop it.

03/14/2017

Scientists Closer To Creating A Fully Synthetic Yeast Genome

NPR

Scientists have taken another important step toward creating different types of synthetic life in the laboratory. An international research consortium reports Thursday that it has figured out an efficient method for synthesizing a substantial part of the genetic code of yeast.

03/13/2017

Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill

Washington Post

Employers could impose hefty penalties on employees who decline to participate in genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs if a bill approved by a U.S. House committee this week becomes law.

03/10/2017

Drugs are killing so many people in West Virginia that the state can’t keep up with the funerals

Washington Post

Deaths in West Virginia have overwhelmed a state program providing burial assistance for needy families for at least the fifth year in a row, causing the program to be nearly out of money four months before the end of the fiscal year, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Funeral directors in West Virginia say the state’s drug overdose epidemic, the worst in the nation, is partly to blame.

03/09/2017

China pledges to cut pollution and boost food safety

Science

China’s central government is laying plans to curb pollution, increase food and drug safety, and boost scientific research—though supporting details are scarce.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang outlined these and other major goals during the opening session of the National People’s Congress on Sunday. The congress discussions are not likely to result in new legislation specific to science but speeches by top leaders set the tone for policy over the coming year.

“Having reached the current stage of development, China can now advance only through reform and innovation,” Li said in support of his call to boost research efforts. China has “the largest pool of scientists, engineers, and professionals in the world, and their potential for innovation is truly tremendous.”

03/08/2017

Trump plan for 40% cut could cause EPA science office ‘to implode,’ official warns

Science

The Trump administration wants to cut spending by EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) by more than 40% from roughly $510 million to $290 million, according to sources that have seen preliminary directives from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The cuts target scientific work in fields including climate change, air and water quality, and chemical safety. EPA’s $50 million external grant program for environmental scientists at universities would disappear altogether. Such erasures represent just part of a larger plan to shrink EPA’s budget by 25% to $6.1 billion.

03/07/2017

Climate change threatens to wash away couple’s history

CNN

Seventy years ago, on the day Wenceslaus and Denicia Billiot got married, their wedding party danced along a road that ran from one end of Isle de Jean Charles to the other.

Today, that road is nearly gone. Isle de Jean Charles, located 80 miles from New Orleans, has been sinking slowly. Since 1955, it has lost 98% of its land mass to rising sea levels, devastating hurricanes, and the construction of oil and gas canals along the marsh.

03/06/2017

Polluted environments kill 1.7 million children each year, WHO says

CNN

Each year, environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under 5, according to World Health Organization reports released Monday.

03/03/2017

A divided White House still offers little guidance on replacing Obamacare

Washington Post

A meeting Friday afternoon between President Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, his former rival in the GOP primaries, had no set agenda. But Kasich came armed with one anyway: his hope to blunt drastic changes to the nation’s health-care system envisioned by some conservatives in Washington.

03/02/2017

An epigenetics gold rush: new controls for gene expression

Nature

Over the past few years, researchers have identified some of the machinery involved in regulating these marks. Each requires a writer to place it, an eraser to remove it and a reader to interpret it. As the identities of these proteins emerged, scientists have come to understand that m6A affects not only RNA splicing, but also translation and RNA stability.

03/01/2017

Ebola funding surge hides falling investment in other neglected diseases

Nature

Global funding for research on neglected diseases — which include tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria — is at its lowest level since 2007, according to the annual G-FINDER investment report by Policy Cures Research, a health-policy analysis firm in Sydney, Australia.

02/28/2017

Biologists propose to sequence the DNA of all life on Earth

Science

Yesterday, at a meeting here organized by the Smithsonian Initiative on Biodiversity Genomics and the Shenzhen, China–based sequencing powerhouse BGI, a small group of researchers upped the ante even more, announcing their intent to, eventually, sequence “all life on Earth.”

02/27/2017

U.S. researchers guilty of misconduct later won more than $100 million in NIH grants, study finds

Science

Overall, 23 of the scientists (roughly 8% of sanctioned researchers) received NIH funding after receiving an ORI sanction. Of that group, 17 researchers won more than $101 million for 61 new projects. Thirteen continued to receive funding from NIH grants that had been awarded before being sanctioned.

02/24/2017

The Birth of CRISPR Inc

Science

As the science grew even more compelling and venture capital (VC) beckoned, the jockeying to start CRISPR companies became intense. The research community was rent apart by concerns about intellectual property, academic credit, Nobel Prize dreams, geography, media coverage, egos, personal profit, and loyalty. A billion dollars poured into what might be called CRISPR Inc.

02/23/2017

How Silicon Valley Is Trying to Hack Its Way Into a Longer Life

Time

Rather than wait years for treatments to be approved by federal officials, many of them are testing ways to modify human biology that fall somewhere on the spectrum between science and entrepreneurialism. It’s called biohacking, and it’s one of the biggest things happening in the Bay Area.

02/22/2017

Artificial intelligence grows a nose

Science

Now, 22 teams of computer scientists have unveiled a set of algorithms able to predict the odor of different molecules based on their chemical structure. It remains to be seen how broadly useful such programs will be, but one hope is that such algorithms may help fragrancemakers and food producers design new odorants with precisely tailored scents.

02/21/2017

Harvard and M.I.T. Scientists Win Gene-Editing Patent Fight

The New York Times

The Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., will retain potentially lucrative rights to a powerful gene-editing technique that could lead to major advances in medicine and agriculture, the federal Patent and Trademark Office ruled on Wednesday.

02/17/2017

An old drug gets a new price to fight a rare disease: $89,000 a year

Washington Post

An old steroid treatment, long available outside the United States, received approval this week for a rare disease that afflicts about 15,000 Americans. Though not previously approved in the United States, the drug, deflazacort, has for years been available to patients suffering from the devastating and fatal disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy; families can import it from abroad for about $1,200 per year on average. The new list price for the drug? $89,000 a year.

02/16/2017

Speedy drug approvals are risky, but drug companies have another idea that’s just terrible

Los Angeles Times

As with Trump’s proposed elimination of consumer safeguards, environmental-protection measures and financial reforms, the reality is that if his administration proceeds with a wholesale deregulation of the drug industry, the public will be largely undefended against the aggressive and potentially dangerous predations of multibillion-dollar conglomerates.

02/15/2017

This stereotype is killing black children

Washington Post

USA Swimming, the nation’s organizing body for the sport, has some 337,000 members — of whom only 1.3 percent are black. Today, nearly 60 years after the abolishment of Jim Crow laws that kept African Americans from pools and safe swimming places, many children still never get the chance to swim.

02/14/2017

French auditors criticize €5-billion science super-campus near Paris

Nature

France’s government auditor has taken a sharp swipe at efforts to develop a science super-campus near Paris that, by 2020, was supposed to rival the world’s top campus universities, such as the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). More than €5.3 billion (US$5.7 billion) in public spending has been earmarked for the Paris-Saclay science cluster, the Court of Auditors estimates in an annual report published on 8 February — but the original vision of creating a large integrated research university there is “at a standstill”.

02/13/2017

Senate confirms Price to lead HHS

Science

Price now takes the helm of a $1 trillion government department that includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most visibly, he will be charged with overseeing the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that Republicans have promised.

02/10/2017

Brain researchers fight National Hockey League’s demand for records

Science

A pair of Boston University (BU) brain researchers is pushing back against demands by the National Hockey League (NHL) that they release data, brain pathology slides, and interview records of former NHL players and their families. The scientists accumulated the records during their research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease that has been linked to repetitive head trauma.