Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Archive for April 2014

Science Policy Around the Web – April 24, 2014

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By: Jennifer Plank

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

Vermont Will Require Labeling of Genetically Altered Foods – Vermont has recently established the strictest guidelines regarding genetically modified foods. Beginning July 1, 2016, all foods containing genetically modified ingredients must be labeled as such, which could affect up to 80 percent of foods on the shelves of grocery stores. Due to the small number of individuals living in Vermont, it is possible that some suppliers of genetically modified foods will cease selling to grocery stores in the state. While the ruling is currently limited to food sales in Vermont, the precedent set could impact legislation in other states or at the federal level. (Stephanie Strom)

NIH Policy Change Allows Unlimited Resubmissions of Grant Applications – Last week, the NIH revised the policy regarding number of resubmissions for R01 grants. Previously, once a grant was submitted (A0), it could be revised and resubmitted one time (A1). After that submission, if the grant was not funded, another submission of the same research was not allowed. Under the new guidelines, a grant can still only technically be resubmitted one time, however, the same grant can be submitted as a new A0, which means that any grant can essentially be resubmitted an unlimited number of times. Whether this policy change will have a positive benefit on research and the funding climate is yet to be seen. (Chris Pickett)

FDA Warns Against Protocol To Remove Uterine Fibroids – Last week, the FDA issued a statement encouraging doctors to stop a surgical procedure to remove uterine growths; such removal may inadvertently spread cancer throughout the body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, is used to remove uterine growths during laparoscopic surgeries. Although the FDA urges doctors to cease using the procedure, they do not intend to ban any of the devices required to perform the operation. (Brady Dennis)

 

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

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Science Policy Around the Web – April 18, 2014

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By: Bethanie Morrison

photo credit: lindsay-fox via photopin cc

photo credit: lindsay-fox via photopin cc

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

Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws -An article written by four of the top scientist-administrators in the U.S. (Bruce Alberts, Marc Kirschner, Shirley Tilghman and Harold Varmus) addressing the flawed biomedical research enterprise was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS). While reminiscent of the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group report from 2012 and the 1998 report from the National Academies on the future of the biomedical workforce, the thesis of this article is that the American biomedical research atmosphere has become “hypercompetitive,” thereby reducing scientific productivity and harming the careers of promising scientists. The authors suggest that there is an overproduction of Ph.D-level scientists at a time when Ph.D-level jobs are somewhat scarce. They propose the system gradually reduce the number of Ph.D students and alter the ratio of trainees to staff scientists in research labs. Furthermore, the authors strongly urge members of Congress to understand that the research funding and progress as it is right now are unsustainable, and that they must figure out a more stable way to fund biomedical research. (Bethanie Morrison)

Injuries from e-cigarettes increase amid rising popularity – E-cigarettes, battery-powered cartridges that are filled with liquid nicotine that causes an inhalable vapor when heated, have been reported to cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems as well as burns and nicotine toxicity. A recent report from the CDC showed an increased number of calls to poison control centers regarding e-cigarette problems. Companies manufacturing e-cigarettes in the U.S. such as Logic Technology and Lorillard, Inc. cite e-cigarettes made in China as the main problem. China’s regulations on product development and manufacturing are nowhere near as strict as those enforced by the U.S. FDA, allowing China to sell poorly and inconsistently-made products for less money all over the world, particularly via the internet. The FDA is slated to discuss how to regulate e-cigarettes and other “vaping” devices for the first time in the near future, which may potentially reshape the industry. (Reuters)

Political rifts slow U.S. effort on climate laws – A report released this week by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that the United States and China need to enact major climate change policies in the next six years in order to stave off the most harmful impacts of global warming. While the United Nations has made climate change a policy priority, U.S. polls have shown that although the majority of Americans (Republican and Democrat) accept that climate change is real, they do not hold it as a high priority come voting season, thus making it a lesser issue for members of Congress. One of the UN policy suggestions made was to impart a tax on carbon pollution. Given the political stances on taxation in Congress, Republicans signing declarations never to raise taxes and Democrats insisting on taxing large corporations, a grand bargain is likely the only way forward. Fortunately, lawmakers from both parties have pushed tax reform such that incorporating a new carbon tax may be paired with a cut in corporate or income taxes. This should help to decrease carbon emissions as such to avoid a catastrophic global atmospheric temperature increase of 3.6°F by 2050, while giving big business the money they need to develop new energy solutions and keep people employed. (Coral Davenport, New York Times)

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April 18, 2014 at 11:18 am

Attention Cancer Researchers – Make Some Noise!!!

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By: Bethanie Morrison

photo credit: afagen via photopin cc

photo credit: afagen via photopin cc

This past week the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) was held in San Diego, California. An estimated 18,000 international researchers, patient advocates, and other professionals in the cancer field were scheduled to be in attendance, making this meeting the premier cancer research event of the year. In addition to presentations of the most exciting basic, translational and clinical research discoveries, the AACR always includes sessions on health, science and regulatory policy. The first of these sessions on the schedule was titled, “NIH and NCI Funding: How the AACR and Our Partners are Taking a Stand against the Decades-long Decline in Federal Funding for Research and Development.” Based on the fact that 80% of the annual NIH budget supports research done at universities and other research institutions, one might expect that a session talking about a decline in federal funding for NIH would draw a significant percentage of meeting goers to attend. Unfortunately this was not the case. Out of the 18,000 projected to be in attendance, and the good majority of them being funded by NIH/NCI, only 40 people showed interest in what is being done to slow or even reverse the decline in federally funded research.

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April 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Essays

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How Biomedical Research Benefits Society and the Impact of the Ryan Budget

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By: Jennifer Plank

Credit: Jennifer Plank

Credit: Jennifer Plank

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest medical research agency in the United States. Historically, funding for the NIH has received bipartisan support, which was clearly illustrated by the efforts of the 105th Congress in 1997. Senate Republicans proposed that the NIH budget be doubled by the year 2003. This initiative received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, resulting in a budget increase from $15.6 billion to $27.2 billion1. Additionally, a bipartisan letter authored by House members Susan Davis (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Peter King (R-NY) requesting $32 billion (representing an inflation adjustment and a 1% increase) for the NIH in FY2015 was signed by 24 Republican and many Democrat Representatives. However, bipartisan support does not always translate to actual budget appropriations. For the decade following “the doubling,” the NIH budget remained relatively flat, and when adjusted for inflation, the spending power of the NIH has dramatically decreased2. Unfortunately, 22 of the 24 Republicans, including Peter King, co-author of the letter requesting an NIH budget increase, voted for Representative Paul Ryan’s budget, which would cut the NIH budget by 1/3 by FY20243.

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April 11, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Essays

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Science Policy Around the Web – April 11, 2014

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By: Kaitlyn Morabito

photo credit: EssjayNZ via photopin cc

photo credit: EssjayNZ via photopin cc

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

Guarded Optimism after breast cancer drug shows promising results  –  In a recent Phase II clinical trial, Pfizer’s breast cancer drug, palbociclib, was shown to decrease the risk of cancer progression by half. This results in about a 10-month difference in the time until progression in the treatment group compared to the control group. Although there was a trend towards increased survival by 4 months, the results were not significant.   Palbociclib inhibits cyclin-dependent kinase 4 and 6 curbing growth of cancer cells.   If the FDA waves the requirement for a Phase III clinical trial, this drug may be on the market as early as next year. If a Phase III clinical trial is required, approval will be delayed for several years. (Andrew Polluck)

Cheaper fuel from self-destructing treesIn an effort to decrease the cost of turning plants into biofuel, scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have genetically modified trees to express ferulic acid. In order to access the energy source of plants, long chains of sugars called cellulose, lignin that holds cellulose and hemicellulose fibers together must be degraded. This process includes the use of heat and chemical compounds to breakdown lignin and accounts for more than 25% of the cost of cellulosic ethanol based biofuels. Ferulic acid bonds with two other compounds to make up a modified lignin, which is easier to breakdown. The group has made genetically engineered popular trees and is working on making modified corn.  (Robert F. Service)

NIH stem cell programme closes – Amid uncertainty, the NIH’s Center for Regenerative Medicine (CRM), which specializes in stem cell research, has been closed.   Although the center’s Director Mahendra Rao resigned on March 28th, and the institute’s website has been shutdown, there has been no official announcement from the NIH.   Many of the researchers associated with the institute have not received any information on the future of the center. According to officials, a panel of stem cell researchers will gather in May to discuss the fate of the program, including whether to move CRM projects to the National Center for Advancing Translation Sciences and what to do with the remaining budget. The closure of the center follows the funding of clinical trials for only one of the center’s projects, while preparations for clinical trials of 4 additional projects had already begun. (Sara Reardon)

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April 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – April 8, 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.

NASA Breaks Most Contact With Russia – NASA is suspending most contacts with Russian space agency officials. This move underscores the rapid deterioration of the Russian-American relationship which comes after the annexation of Crimea by Russia earlier this year. One exception to this move is operations of the International Space Station which are to remain the same. Historically, the relationship NASA has with Russia has been immune to such political tensions between the two countries. However, as the confrontation over Ukraine intensifies, the Obama administration cannot continue allowing meetings between NASA and Russian officials as if all were normal. This decision by the administration was made easier since the US space program has dwindled and space-relations with other countries are not needed like they once were. (Kenneth Chang and Peter Baker)

 

Neurological Institute Finds Worrisome Drop in Basic Research – The director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Story Landis, announced data that showed a “sharp decrease” in basic research at her institute. Landis and her staff examined the aims and abstracts of grants funded between 1997 and 2012 and found that NINDS competing grant funding that went to basic research declined from 87% to 71%. Applied research rose from 13% to 29%. When NINDS staffers dug deeper, they found that the percentage of NINDS-funded proposals that were considered basic research and did not have a specific disease focus fell from 52% to 27%. Landis plans to continue to explore the reason behind this decline. She finds this decline worrisome since “fundamental basic research is the engine of discovery”. (Jocelyn Kaiser)

 

The Africa Ebola outbreak that keeps getting worse – News of an Ebola outbreak in Africa has received modest notice in the West. The World Health Organization was not notified until March 23th, months after individuals were infected. As of April 3, the WHO reported that Ebola “has a case fatality of up to 90 percent” with 83 dead and 127 confirmed cases. On April 6th, the number of dead reached 90 and Ghana and Mali announced their first suspected cases of the disease. The announcement of this outbreak has struck fear in the African population. What is particularly worrisome is the migratory pattern of the outbreak. Usually, the outbreaks stay in isolated, remote geographical pockets but, this time, Ebola has shot hundreds of miles from southwest Guinea to the coastal capital of Conakry. Very few doctors, poor infrastructure, and a general distrust of authority by the people of Guinea exacerbate this situation. (Terrence McCoy)

 

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm