Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Archive for April 2013

Science Policy Around the Web – April 28, 2013

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photo credit: Ethan T. Allen via photopin cc

By: Katherine Donigan

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Senators, Representatives Express Opposition to Disproportionate Cuts to NASA Science Budget – Federal budget cuts resulting from sequestration continue to affect many areas of research.  Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, along with Representatives Adam Schiff and John Culberson have signed a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden to express opposition to budget reductions to the Planetary Science program.  This program focuses on solar system exploration through data collection; from flyby images of distant planets to roving missions on planet surfaces. Proposed budget cuts would likely eliminate a planned mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, that is known to have an ice-covered ocean that may harbor living organisms.  Current missions, such as the Cassini spacecraft that orbits Saturn, may be cut short.  As the effects of sequestration and budget cuts on scientific research start to become more defined, we can expect to see more opposition arise to specific cuts, but how best to navigate science budgets in these fiscal times is far from clear. (Richard M. Jones)

Drug Policy Reform In Action: A 21st Century Approach – The White House has released a plan for drug policy reform that is based on scientific study regarding the nature of addiction. Despite all the effort put into fighting the “war on drugs,” drug-induced overdose deaths are now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.  Past policies were focused on enforcing criminal penalties and incarceration.  This new approach accounts for the mountains of scientific data indicating that addiction has a physiological basis, and should be treated as a public health issue with a focus on prevention, treatment and recovery.  These studies show us why the drug war has been such a difficult one to fight, and points toward a new direction for policy reform.(R. Gil Kerlikowske)

Despite safety and effectiveness, parent HPV vaccine concerns persist – A recent study published in Pediatrics has found that the numbers of parents who are not getting their daughters vaccinated against HPV is on the rise.  The vaccine protects against strains of HPV that cause cancer and strains that cause genital warts, and has not been shown to have any side effects beyond the typical ones seen for vaccines.  Despite the data supporting the safety of this vaccine, more parents are citing safety concerns as reason to not get their daughters vaccinated.  The primary reason cited for not vaccinating, however, was that parents didn’t see the need to vaccinate a young child against a sexually transmitted virus.  Maximum effectiveness is seen when girls are vaccinated early, before they have had a chance to be exposed to HPV.  In fact, recent data on genital wart prevention indicate that the vaccine is 93% effective in girls vaccinated before age 14.  These recent studies highlight the need for increased public awareness about HPV vaccine effectiveness, especially when given at a young age. (Tara Haelle)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Posted in Linkposts

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Once and for all, can human genes be patented?

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photo credit: Mark Fischer via photopin cc

By: Katherine Bricceno

The long-debated question of whether a gene can be patented marked an important milestone on April 15th when the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Inc., the case challenging patents on the human BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Mutations in these genes are linked to increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers. In 2010, the District Court of Southern New York invalidated seven patents related to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (1), but this decision was reversed by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in July of 2012 (2).  However, the court did rule that analyzing cancer risk, a separate Myriad patent, constituted abstract mental steps that cannot be patented. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 24, 2013 at 8:49 am

Posted in Essays

Science Policy Around the Web – April 21, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: limowreck666 via photopin cc

photo credit: limowreck666 via photopin cc

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

FDA’s rejection of generic OxyContin may have side effects – With the patent on the original OxyContin ending, the FDA has declared that they will not approve generic versions of the drug. In order for drug developers to compete in the prescription pain relief market, they will have to develop abuse resistant forms of the drug. In 2010, Purdue Pharma LP, the developer of the original OxyContin, produced a form of the drug that includes a polymer that makes it impossible to snort and inject the drug. The patent on the drug resistant form expires in 2025.  (Nancy Shute and Audrey Carlsen)

Stereotype threat for girls and STEM – According to Facebook executive and author Sheryl Sandberg, women are being held back by what social scientists call a “stereotype threat”- an idea that suggests that the more we are aware of the stereotype, the more likely we are to act in accordance with it. Sandberg suggests that the stereotype threat is what is responsible for preventing women to pursue leadership roles and careers in highly technical field, such as computer science. A recent study looking at author gender and gender typing of projects suggests that publications from male authors were more highly regarded scientifically. The author also presents many links aiming to encourage interest in STEM. (Chris Gunter)

Gene patents are sabotaging the future of medicine – A case currently being debated by the Supreme Court, Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, has the potential to influence how clinicians can report the results of genome wide sequencing to their patients. Currently, Myriad holds the patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with the onset of breast and ovarian cancers. Therefore, Myriad has a monopoly on all diagnostics and therapeutics related to the BRCA genes. The Association for Molecular Pathology states that a person has a right to know their own genetic code and should not have to have permission from patent holders to know the sequence of their own genes. The Supreme Court will rule on the case in late June. (Daniela Hernandez)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 21, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Privacy, discrimination and consent: policy in the genomic era

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photo credit: Alfred Hermida via photo pin cc

photo credit: Alfred Hermida via photo pin cc

By: Katherine Donigan

The Human Genome Project was initiated in 1990 by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and other international partners (1).  The aim of the project was to determine the complete sequence of the human genome, numbered at 3 billion base pairs.  With the complete code at hand, scientists hoped to unlock the underlying genetic causes of human diseases and discover new methods of diagnosis and treatment.  As is often the case in science, our genes proved to be more complicated than we could have imagined.

While disease associations have been linked to many different genes, the notion of “one gene, one disorder” is unlikely to be true for the most common conditions, like cancer, diabetes or hypertension (2).  One gene, mutated in different ways, may be linked to different diseases.  Alternatively, several genes may associate with a single disease and have varied degrees of contribution to the condition.   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 19, 2013 at 8:56 am

Posted in Essays

The Impact of Science Policy on Precision Medicine

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By: Lanyn Perez Taliaferro

Scientific and technological breakthroughs such as rapid genomic sequencing have increased our understanding and knowledge of the underlying molecular basis of diseases. Molecular biology research has revealed cause and effect at the genetic level; a modification in one gene can lead to a pronounced biological change. This small window into our biological system allows us to solve medical problems that we once only dreamed possible; we are able to diagnose and treat many diseases that were once death sentences. Clearly, innovative scientific thinking is essential for a successful healthcare system that will impact our overall lifespan and quality of life. Similarly, the implementation and effective use of such technologies is dependent on strong public health and science policies. As a result, science policy makers must evolve to keep pace with ever-changing advancements in science and medicine. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Posted in Essays

Science Policy Around the Web – April 4, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: nasa hq photo via photopin cc

photo credit: nasa hq photo via photopin cc

Our biweekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

NASA Curiosity Rover Gives Us a Reason to Send Humans to Mars – Last month, scientists at NASA reported that the surface of Mars contained water that could have supported human life. Additionally, the rock on the surface of Mars contain elements that support human life (sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, phosphorus, oxygen, and carbon). However, despite conditions that could support life, no signs of life have been identified by the Rover. There are currently a couple private companies planning Mars expeditions, but due to funding cuts, NASA will not be sponsoring any. (Adam Hogue)

Stem Cell Ruling Riles Researchers – The Italian health minister, Renato Balduzzi, recently declared that a controversial stem cell treatment can continue in 32 terminally ill patients despite the fact that the stem cells being used are not manufactured according to Italy’s safety requirements. The therapy was developed by the Stamina Foundation and has been repeatedly banned over the past 6 years. However, despite the bans, patient interest groups advocated for the treatment in terminally ill patients, and the treatment is currently approved for patients without other treatment options. Stem cell researchers are appalled because the treatment is dangerous due to lack of rigorous testing. (Alison Abbott)

Congress Limits NSF Funding for Political Science – On March 26, Congress passed a law stating that the NSF can no longer fund political science research except for projects promoting national security. The NSF funds approximately 95 percent of political science research. Some scientists fear that this new law opens the door for congressmen, rather than scientists, to determine which research projects merit funding. The amendment only applies for the 2013 fiscal year and will need to be renewed yearly. (Jeffrey Mervis)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm