Thursday, April 23, 2009

WEST AFRICA: Meningitis wanes in Nigeria

The meningitis epidemic – the worst to hit West and Central Africa in five years according to the UN – is waning in hard-hit Nigeria, but Médecins Sans Frontières staff say the deadly disease is still spreading in parts of southern Niger. Agencies estimate at least six million people in Nigeria and over two million in Niger between the ages of two and 30 – the highest-risk group for infection – require vaccinations.In Nigeria meningitis had stricken 39,841 people and killed 1,886 as of 12 April.

Stem Cell Compromise

The Obama administration took the easy political path on embryonic stem cells last week by proposing to pay for research only on stem cell lines created from surplus embryos at fertility clinics but not on lines created in the laboratory to study particular diseases.
The proposal is not bold enough and will continue to deny federal financing to some potentially promising research. Still it is a significant improvement over former President George W. Bush’s rules that allowed federal support for work with only 21 stem cell lines already created from surplus embryos at fertility clinics.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The bright future of ethanol

A little more than a year ago, Gov. Rendell celebrated the groundbreaking of the first ethanol plant in Pennsylvania. That was before the recession deepened, gasoline prices rode a roller coaster, credit tightened, and most industries were shuttering plants and laying off workers.Now, after all the economic calamity, construction is continuing on BioEnergy International's new plant in the central Pennsylvania community of Clearfield. When the $270 million facility opens in January, it will be capable of producing 108 million gallons of corn-based ethanol and an additional 15 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from plant matter such as wood pulp and agricultural wastes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

HIV deal shows need for new pharmaceutical models

The pharmaceutical industry is going back to the lab for its business models as it faces historic challenges.
Large drugmakers are experimenting with various collaborations as their major products face revenue declines, research productivity stalls, and governments and health insurers crack down on drug prices and healthcare costs.
The new ventures -- from deals on products to mega mergers -- seek to meet these challenges by cutting costs and mitigating the risks of research into new treatments.

How to raise our I.Q

Poor people have I.Q.’s significantly lower than those of rich people, and the awkward conventional wisdom has been that this is in large part a function of genetics.
After all, a series of studies seemed to indicate that I.Q. is largely inherited. Identical twins raised apart, for example, have I.Q.’s that are remarkably similar. They are even closer on average than those of fraternal twins who grow up together.

Tens of Thousands Displaced by Flooding

Namibia is experiencing flooding on a scale last seen nearly 50 years ago. The northern parts of the country are the worst hit.President Hifikepunye Pohamba has declared Caprivi, Kavango and other parts of the country disaster areas and the United Nations has launched a snap appeal for US $2.7 million to help the disaster response.

Friday, April 10, 2009

No time to retreat

Last month over 2,000 climate experts convened in Copenhagen with a common cause — to provide a scientific update to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 assessment on global warming. They also shared a common concern that despite the gathering pace of climate change, their message is simply failing to permeate through to policymakers and the public.

Science journalism: Supplanting the old media?

John Timmer's slide into journalism was so gradual even he can't put his finger on the point at which he stopped being a researcher.
He started reading Internet websites and message boards a decade ago, while he was working as a postdoc in a developmental neurobiology lab at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. One day, one of his favourite sites, Ars Technica, announced that it was looking for someone to help with its science coverage. It was 2005, and a school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, had gone to court over the promotion of intelligent design. "I thought, wow, it really feels like the public has completely lost touch with what science is all about," says Timmer. "So I basically e-mailed the existing author and volunteered."

Disease in a warming climate

Climate change takes the blame for many dim future prospects: rising sea levels, more frequent droughts and disappearing glaciers, to name just a few. But perhaps the warming trend should be absolved of responsibility for a predicted bump in the global burden of infectious disease.