Expert panel calls for reform in human subject protection

In the wake of the 2010 discovery that U.S. government-funded scientists intentionally infected unknowing Guatemalan citizens with syphilis in the 1940s, President Obama has asked his Commission on for the Study of Bioethical Issues to take a good hard look at whether human subjects today are adequately protected in federally funded research.  Read more

Mining the honey bee genome

Mining the honey bee genome

What does it mean for a community that focuses on one organism to have that organism’s genome sequenced? Just ask researchers who gathered this week at the Honey Bee Genomics and Biology Meeting at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. It’s the first time such a conference has been held since the honey bee genome was sequenced, and over the course of the past three days it’s become abundantly clear that this is a field transformed, greatly expanded and diversified from just four years ago. “Before the genome… studying bees was kind of esoteric,” says Harland  … Read more

Armadillo passes leprosy to humans

Armadillo passes leprosy to humans

New genetic evidence confirms a long held suspicion that the armadillo, the official small state mammal of Texas, can pass leprosy to humans. The finding should give clinicians a reason to watch for the disease in patients, say researchers, and hopefully lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease.  Read more

Research board calls for Gulf Coast proposals

Research board calls for Gulf Coast proposals

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI) research board today announced its long-awaited request for proposals from researchers who want to use British Petroleum (BP) funds to study the effects of last year’s Gulf Coast Oil spill. Interdisciplinary teams of researchers may now apply for funding to conduct studies that address one of five themes.  Read more

NASA’s life and physical science program gets a check-up

NASA’s life and physical science program gets a check-up

Posted on behalf of Adam Mann. Getting humans and other organisms into space is hard. Figuring out what kind of worthwhile science to do with them once they’re there may be even harder. With that challenge in mind, the National Research Council (NRC) released a report on 5 April outlining research priorities for NASA’s biological and physical sciences for the next ten years. But because of shifting plans for human spaceflight and uncertain funding scenarios from US President Barack Obama and Congress, the Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space does not ask for specific projects or draft  … Read more

US government advises wider evacuation radius around crippled nuclear plant

US government advises wider evacuation radius around crippled nuclear plant

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has advised the evacuation of US citizens within 50 miles (about 80 kilometers) of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, a distance four times that recommended by the Japanese government, according to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. The evacuation recommendation, said Jaczko today in front of a congressional panel, comes in light of high radiation levels measured outside of the unit 4 reactor building and the possibility of further radiation emission from the plant.  Read more

Senate Passes Patent Reform Bill

The America Invents Act, the latest in a series of attempts to reform the US patent system, passed the Senate on 8 March with bipartisan support by a vote of 95-5. Championed by Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, the bill aims to streamline the patent application process and reduce the current backlog of applications at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The bill would also bring US patent rules in line with those of other countries and improve the quality of patents issued.  Read more

NAS Study Underway – Are Nuclear Facilities Linked to Cancer?

NAS Study Underway – Are Nuclear Facilities Linked to Cancer?

In response to a request from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the National Academy of Sciences has formed a committee aimed at determining whether people who live near nuclear facilities are at an increased risk for cancer. The committee met with NRC researchers for the first time yesterday in Washington, DC to discuss the best way to examine cancer incidences in populations near 115-120 nuclear facilities in the US. “There are recurrent concerns amongst the public about their perception of increased cancer risks,” says Terry Brock, a senior program manager with the NRC and project manager for the study.  Read more