Archive by date | June 2011

FDA hearing on Avastin draws protestors — UPDATED

FDA hearing on Avastin draws protestors --  UPDATED

Scores of protestors, many of them women with breast cancer, demonstrated outside a pivotal meeting at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier today. They were demanding that the US drug regulator reverse a December decision to withdraw its approval for the use of Genentech’s Avastin (bevacizumab) in metastatic breast cancer – breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body. “We sent a message to the FDA today loud and clear: Keep your hands off our women and allow them to keep their Avastin,” said Terry Kalley, the founder and president of the group Freedom of  … Read more

UK Information commissioner orders release of climate data

UK Information commissioner orders release of climate data

Nearly two years after an Oxford University professor filed the original freedom-of-information request, the United Kingdom Information Commissioner’s Office has overruled the University of East Anglia and ordered the institution to release a pair of files containing weather station data.  Read more

Malaria research and development no longer ‘neglected,’ but gaps remain

Malaria research and development no longer 'neglected,' but gaps remain

Malaria research and development is enjoying sustained growth in spending, after languishing for decades until the 1990’s when the disease began making its way back on to the international political agenda. Experts warn against complacency, however, as the gains made could quickly unravel if funding growth slows down. The key tools of insecticides for vector-control and diagnostics are also still being neglected by donors who tend to prefer to fund R&D on more glamorous drugs and vaccines.

Journal pulls meditation paper after “additional data” surfaces

A journal said today that it was pulling a paper linking transcendental meditation to lowered rates of death from heart attack and stroke after its authors provided additional data “less than 24 hours” before the article had been slated to be published online.  Read more

Three major biology funders launch new open access journal, but why exactly?

Three major life science funders, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Wellcome Trust, and the Max Planck Society today announced that they intend to fund the launch of what they hope will become a top-tier biomedical and life science journal to rival the likes of Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine — and it might seem the Public Library of Sciences’s (PLoS] flagship open access biomedical journals. The journal, which they expect to begin publishing summer 2012, has yet to be given a name , but it would be online-only and open-access, with — initially at least – no charges for authors to publish papers, by contrast to most open access journals such as PloS Biology which charge authors an article fee.

These three funders are powerful players in life science research, so what they say, and do, matters – a lot. I’ve reported on open access for more than a decade, and have long been a supporter of it, but not an uncritical one — I’ve questioned initiatives in this too emotionally-charged and often ideological debate where I felt these needed reality or other checks. I can’t speak for Nature Publishing Group, the publishers of Nature (and my employer), but as a journalist with knowledge of this topic, my own take on this new venture is, for the moment, fairly sceptical.

All we have to go on for now is a joint press conference held in London this afternoon, and here the three funders’ arguments on the need for this new journal seemed to me vague and unconvincing, and poorly thought-out, suprisingly so. The leaders of the agencies conceded that they have no clear idea as to how the journal’s operations could be sustainably-funded to make it financially-viable in the long-term, while saying that this was their goal. Their rationale for the new journal, what value it could add, what shortcomings in the existing journal offerings it would address, and how precisely it would achieve this, were similarly disturbilngly wooly, and simplistic..