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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
A group backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that works on India’s immunization program will now be funded by the health ministry, a government official said, a move in part prompted by fears foreign donors could influence policy making.
Legislators in Hawaii are trying to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain two UV-filtering chemicals, after studies suggested that they harm coral reefs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today removed public access to tens of thousands of reports that document the numbers of animals kept by research labs, companies, zoos, circuses, and animal transporters—and whether those animals are being treated humanely under the Animal Welfare Act. Henceforth, those wanting access to the information will need to file a Freedom of Information Act request.
Los Angeles Times
Donald Trump will be coming into office waving the banner of deregulation. While most of the speculation about his plans has focused on the financial industry and the possibility of eviscerating Dodd-Frank reforms, keep your eyes on the Food and Drug Administration. In a Trump administration the agency, figuratively speaking, will have a big bull’s-eye on its back.
Some fear a demonstration led by researchers might only serve to paint scientists as an interest group, further politicizing scientific issues. And at least one veteran science lobbyist has urged organizers to make sure it’s a march for science, not scientists.
By studying the insects under more-natural conditions, scientists hope to better understand how to eradicate them — and malaria — using an emerging genetic-engineering technology called gene drives. The technique can quickly disseminate genetic modifications in wild populations through an organism’s offspring, prompting some activists to call for it to be shelved. Yet gene drives might not be as effective as activists think. Recent research has identified a major hurdle to using them to eliminate diseases and vanquish invasive pests: evolution.
Kaveh Daneshvar was thrilled when he was invited to speak at a molecular biology meeting next month in Banff, Canada. Daneshvar, a molecular geneticist, is finishing a postdoc at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and preparing to go on the job market. He hoped that the conference talk would give him much-needed exposure to leaders in his field.
Clearly, private companies cannot be expected to invest on their own. But it is incumbent on governments to invest, and thus address this market failure, in partnership with pharma. It is therefore encouraging that there is now a solid plan to do just that: the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), launched on 18 January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, aims to develop and take through early clinical trials vaccines against potential threats. It already has enough cash to work on three — MERS, Nipah-virus infection and Lassa fever.
In 1950, Japan’s scientific community, chastened by the complicity of researchers in their nation’s disastrous military adventurism, took an extraordinary vow. “To preserve our integrity as scientists, we express our firm commitment both domestically and abroad that we will never pursue scientific research for the purpose of war,” declared the Science Council of Japan (SCJ), now the nation’s equivalent to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Growing functional human tissues and organs would provide much needed material for regeneration and repair. New technologies are taking us in that direction. In addition to their use in regenerative medicine, stem cells that grow and morph into organ-like structures known as organoids can be used in drug development and toxicology testing. The potential developments and possibilities are numerous and affect not only biomedicine but also areas of ongoing ethical debate.
The WHO lost a lot of trust in the aftermath of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Nabarro said his hope is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The practical implications of Trump’s action on Friday are harder to decipher. Its language instructs all federal agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay” any part of the law that imposes a financial or regulatory burden on those affected by it. That would cover consumers, doctors, hospitals and other providers, as well as insurers and drug companies.
Ending weeks of speculation, President-elect Donald Trump has asked National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins to remain in his position. It is not clear for how long.
Stem cells: The key to boosting bone healing in diabetes
The New Yorker
Until crispr came along, biologists lacked the tools to force specific genetic changes across an entire population. But the system, which is essentially a molecular scalpel, makes it possible to alter or delete any sequence in a genome of billions of nucleotides. By placing it in an organism’s DNA, scientists can insure that the new gene will copy itself in every successive generation.
The New York Times
Since the days when my mother wouldn’t let my older brother go out to play stickball if I wasn’t with him, there’s been a lot of progress in attitudes toward those we now call developmentally or intellectually challenged.
CRISPR may be used to repair a gene that has a deficient product, such as an enzyme or receptor, or alter code that merely suggests of risk. Ideas on how to use it change hourly. The method is here to last. The ethics will only get more fraught.
Trials conducted in Guinea, one of the West African countries most affected by an outbreak of Ebola that ended this year, show it offers 100% protection. The vaccine is now being fast-tracked for regulatory approval.
Face2Gene takes advantage of the fact that so many genetic conditions have a tell-tale “face”—a unique constellation of features that can provide clues to a potential diagnosis. It is just one of several new technologies taking advantage of how quickly modern computers can analyze, sort, and find patterns across huge reams of data.