News in a nutshell

Call for new ORI head

The Department of Health and Human Services has posted the opening for the director of the Office of Research Integrity on, more than a year after the departure of former director Chris Pascal. The job announcement was circulated within HHS on 23rd Sept., according to the monthly newsletter, Report on Research Compliance. Pascal was still listed as the director as of August, although he had not been in the office since March 2009, until RRC brought the error to the agency’s attention. At the time, HHS said a search was “underway.” Applicants will be accepted until 22nd Oct.

Lasker winners announced

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced last week (21st Sept.) the winners of the 2010 Lasker Awards, sometimes called “America’s Nobels” since they often portend a Nobel Prize. Douglas Coleman of the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their research for identifying and isolating the gene for leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite and body weight. Napoleone Ferrara of Genentech takes home the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for the discovery of VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor. The prizes, worth $250,000 apiece, will be presented on 1st October. David Weatherall of Oxford University was also honored for 50 years of work as a “relentless investigator” in the biomedical sciences.

Wikimedia commons, Ryddragyn

Geron trial begins

Geron Corp. began enrolling patients last week (22nd Sept.) for its stem cell trial for spinal cord injury — the first US Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trial using cells derived from human embryonic stem cells — after an FDA hold on the trial was lifted at the end of July. The trial, using oligodendrocyte progenitor cells to treat patients newly-paralyzed by spinal cord injuries, will enroll only up to ten patients nationally, starting at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and later include additional sites around the country, according to the LA Times.

UC rejected from stem cell lawsuit

Last Monday, University of California tried to enter the legal battle over federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, citing that its interests are “are significant and significantly affected” by the possible ban to ESC funding. Yet both sides of the legal battle opposed the intrusion, according to ScienceInsider. Instead, attorneys for the Justice Department, which is defending the National Institutes of Health against two adult stem cell researchers, encouraged UC to submit a brief supporting the government’s position instead.

Publishing poll

Scientists are deeply invested in the future of scientific research and discovery, according to a survey being published tomorrow by Elsevier. To assess the impact of open access and other publishing trends, the company pooled survey results from over 1,200 researchers, and found that 71 percent believe that open data is “very important” to the future of science. More than two-thirds (68 percent) say they would also be personally interested in developing search and discovery applications — software platforms to find and use scientific data — at their own institutions. When asked what might be the greatest impact of search technology over the next several years, 47 percent chose “the establishment of collaborative knowledge networks (online groups of trusted peers).”

Woo retractions pile up

Two more papers have been retracted in the saga of Savio Woo, a gene therapy researcher at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Woo previously retracted four papers from leading journals and two postdocs have been fired from his lab for misconduct, though Woo himself was cleared of any wrongdoing. Now, another two papers, both in Molecular Therapy in 2007, have been pulled, according to ScienceInsider.

Lobster poop recall?


The FDA made a surprising recall last week, warning consumers to check what’s in their “lobster poo.” Suzipoo Lobster Poo, sold at retail stores in Maine, is being recalled for undeclared peanuts, according to the FDA. Did anyone pause to ask what else might be inside? Hat-tip to NPR.

Related Stories:

·  Stem cell ruling lamented, appealed
[25th August 2010]

·  Geron trial may resume next year
[30th October 2009]

·  2009 Lasker Awards announced
[14th September 2009]

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  1. Marc A. Williams says:

    So let me understand something so that I am not left puzzled or misinformed, Dr Savio L.C. Woo, PROFESSOR & CHAIR Gene and Cell Medicine, PROFESSOR Oncological Sciences and
    PROFESSOR Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai has now retracted 6 high profile papers due in part to an unprecedented term of sustained scientific misconduct from research fellows under his mentorship and training and his lab. “”However, Woo previously retracted four papers from leading journals and two postdocs have been fired from his lab for misconduct, though Woo himself was cleared of any wrongdoing”” [ibid.]. How is this possible? Where is the ethos of accountability of leadership figures in positions of responsibility, oversight and err, accountability. Something is wrong here and Dr Woo’s abilities as a leadership figure should at the very least be seriously questioned and scrutinized.

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