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Archive for February 2014

Science Policy Around the Web – February 21, 2014

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By: Bethanie Morrison

photo credit: Image Editor via photopin cc

photo credit: Image Editor via photopin cc

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

FDA considers trials of ‘three-parent  embryos’ – A new and controversial fertility technique aimed at women who are carriers of mitochondrial disease has been given guarded approval in the UK.  The primary purpose of this technique, called mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy, is to prevent the passage of genes that cause severe mitochondrial diseases to children by way of removing the nuclear genes from the egg that has mutated mitochondrial DNA (parent #1) and placing them into a donor egg containing healthy mitochondria (parent #2) and continuing with in vitro fertilization (parent #3).  In the US, there are ethical concerns as to whether the benefit of decreasing the risk of spreading devastating disease outweighs the moral objections likely to be raised with altering the human germ line.  As the FDA has the power to regulate any form of gene therapy, including the transfer of mitochondrial DNA in embryos, mitochondrial DNA replacement will be up for discussion at the meeting of the FDA’s Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee next week.  The FDA will develop its regulations based on recommendations that stem from this meeting.   “It’s going to be hard to find what a fair balance is,” says Doug Wallace, a mitochondrial geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.  (Gretchen Vogel)

Secretary of State Kerry lashes out at climate change skeptics – While giving a speech to Indonesian students, government officials and civic leaders in Jakarta on Sunday the Secretary of State called out skeptics of climate change for believing shoddy science and for having their heads in the sand regarding what he referred to as, “the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction.”  The Secretary suggested that the solution to the climate change problem is a new global energy policy that shifts reliance from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies, a policy strongly backed by President Obama.  In the days prior to his visit to Indonesia, Secretary Kerry had been in Beijing, a world leader in greenhouse gas emissions, discussing progress on a joint US-China policy initiated by Kerry last year to curb greenhouse gases via the reduction of vehicle emissions, improving energy efficiency of buildings, the advancement of electric power grids, capturing and storing carbon emissions and gathering greenhouse gas data.   It is the hope of the US that collaboration with China will inspire other developing countries to work together and with developed nations to combat climate change.  (AP)

Medicines made in India set off safety worries – The FDA is getting serious about oversight of foreign pharmaceutical plants that export their drugs to the US.  Pharmaceutical companies based in India supply the US with 40% of its over-the-counter and generic prescription drugs, yet these labs are coming under intense scrutiny by the FDA for safety lapses, falsified test results and for the sale of counterfeit medications.  The heightened scrutiny is the result of a law passed in 2012 requiring further regulations on overseas pharmaceutical plants.  The FDA inspected 160 Indian drug plants last year alone.  India exports roughly $15 billion of pharmaceuticals each year, and the increased scrutiny and regulations placed on the industry has led to the closing of many plants and has caused further devastation of the already declining economy.  While India has allowed the FDA to enter and investigate its drug production processes, the same cannot be said for China, which is the largest producer of counterfeit medication in the world.  Despite strong efforts made by the FDA, China has failed to provide the logistics necessary to allow the FDA to enhance its China-based staff.  Unfortunately, the US depends solely on China for many of its imported drugs so the upper hand may still belong to China at this point.  (Gardiner Harris)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

February 21, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – February 16, 2014

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photo credit: sarihuella via photopin cc

photo credit: sarihuella via photopin cc

By: Kaitlyn Morabito

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

U.S. launches new global initiative to prevent infectious disease threats  – Participants from 26 countries, including the U.S., met on Thursday to launch a new world-wide public health program.  The focus of this initiative is to detect, treat, and contain newly emerging and known infectious disease agents where the outbreak starts to prevent global spreading of diseases such as West Nile virus, Dengue virus, tuberculosis and polio virus.  This program involves establishing a network of disease detecting laboratories, increasing vaccination campaigns and setting up emergency response teams. This global strategy of rapid detection, treatment and containment is more cost efficient than efforts by individual counties once the disease has spread. (Lena H. Sun)

Myriad Wins First Round in Cancer Gene Testing Battle  – Last June, the Supreme Court ruled that companies can not patent naturally occurring human genes, challenging Myriad’s patents on the BRCA genes used in breast cancer screening tests.  Following this ruling, many competitors released their own tests for the BRCA genes, prompting lawsuits from Myraid.  Myraid argues that the ruling does not apply to the related patents on the BRCA testing kits.  Last week, one of the competitors, Gene By Gene, settled with Myraid, agreeing to stop selling the kits within the US.  Lawsuits against other competitors are still pending. (Eliot Marshall)

Fusion energy milestone reported by California scientists  – Scientists at the National Ignition Facility, part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, are a step closer to creating a fusion reactor.  In their experiment, more energy was released from the fuel core than went into the fuel core.  However, there is still a long way to go before scientists create a fusion reactor.  The fuel core absorbed only a small fraction (about 1%) of the energy from the lasers, so the overall input energy is more than the output energy. (Joel Achenbach)

 

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

February 16, 2014 at 10:27 am

Science Policy Around the Web – February 7, 2014

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By: Tara Burke

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

Guidelines urge women to monitor stroke risks more closely than men – The American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) released guidelines yesterday aimed at preventing strokes in women. While women share many of the same risk factors as men, they also have unique risks that stem from pregnancy complications and hormone use. These additional guidelines emphasize maintenance of safe blood pressure levels, especially in young women, and suggest that women be screened for high blood pressure before taking birth-control pills. The AHA and ASA also advocates that women who experienced preeclampsia and eclampsia during pregnancy consider these conditions a risk factor for stroke well after their pregnancy.  (Lena H. Sun)

New Avian Flu Virus Ravages Poultry in Korea – A new strain of avian flu identified in South Korea on 17 January has spread nationwide and 2.8 million domestic chickens and ducks have been culled since the outbreak was discovered. Additionally, the strain has killed dozens of Baikal teal and other migratory birds. Previously this strain, H5N8, had not been seen in such a highly pathogenic form. Scientists are arguing over the origin of this strain and, to date, there are no reports of human infections. However, there is a serious worry that this strain may affect over 15,000 hens and ducks used in animal husbandry and breed improvement research. Destroying all of these animals would severely disrupt the center’s genetic resources and ongoing research projects. (Dennis Normile)

An Unusual Partnership to Tackle Stubborn Diseases – On Tuesday, the NIH along with seven nonprofit organizations and 10 large companies announced a partnership aimed at speeding up the development of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The partnership involves a 5-year, $230 million effort in which the participants will share data in meetings and conference calls. This partnership will also make their findings publicly available. This joint effort benefits both academic research and industry with the ultimate goal of benefiting those suffering from these diseases. Drug companies have been strained by the enormous amount of money they have put into developing drugs but have the medications failed in clinical trials. Scientists are dealing with a flood of data from gene sequencing and other technologies, making it difficult to conclude what has been discovered. The partnership should speed up analysis and streamline communications amongst all different facets of research required to effectively create drug treatments. (Gina Kolata)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

February 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm

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