notably its efforts to develop drugs for
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The
move comes with 300 layoffs, although
the company will continue a handful of
neuroscience projects, including some
rare disease research and clinical testing
of chronic pain medications. Neuroscience
has long been a risky area for pharmaceutical companies, and several promising
Alzheimer’s treatments have recently
floundered in late-stage clinical trials. But
some analysts remain optimistic about
neuroscience more broadly, citing an influx
of investment in 2017.
Better typhoid shot gets a boost
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND | Doses of a new-generation typhoid vaccine that is longer
lasting and more effective than existing
ones will soon be available for babies and
others in countries hard hit by the disease.
An intestinal bacterial disease spread by
contaminated food and water, typhoid
infects some 11 million to 20 million people
a year. Children are the most susceptible.
The World Health Organization ( WHO) in
December 2017 “prequalified” the vaccine,
which fuses a typhoid bacterial protein to
an immune-stimulating molecule, after
concluding that it is safe and effective. That
means the vaccine, developed by Bharat
Biotech in India, can now be purchased by
United Nations agencies and used globally. Even before WHO approval, Gavi, the
Vaccine Alliance, approved $85 million
to support the introduction of the vaccine
in poor countries, which is expected to
begin in 2019. WHO recommends the vaccine for routine use in children over
6 months of age.
Neutrino detector expands
AN TARC TICA | Physicists working at the
South Pole this week completed an expansion of the Askaryan Radio Array (ARA),
which aims to spot ultra–high-energy neutrinos from space. On rare occasions, neutrinos
passing through polar ice create detectable
cascades of electrically charged particles
and telltale radio signals. Using a water drill,
scientists lowered strings of receivers
200 meters into the ice, adding two new
multistring stations to three previously
installed. The ARA already covers six
times the area of the neighboring IceCube
Neutrino Observatory, which spans 1 square
kilometer and detects neutrinos using light
signals. The ARA is sensitive to neutrinos
at least five times more energetic than those
seen by IceCube. Ultimately, physicists
hope to expand the ARA to 37 stations covering 200 square kilometers.
Political review of grants
A senior adviser at the U.S. Department of the Interior will review certain grants and cooperative agreements of $50,000 or more to universities and nonprofit groups to ensure they
“better align” with the priorities of President Donald Trump’s administration. The move,
which follows a similar decision last summer by the Environmental Protection Agency, was
first reported by The Washington Post, citing a 28 December 2017 memo. The new approval
process appears to be without precedent within the Interior Department, the Post reported.
The priorities of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke include securing the U.S. southern
border and “utilizing our natural resources,” according to an accompanying memo.
Social scientists and civil rights advocates are urging the Census Bureau to reject a request
by the Department of Justice to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census.
They fear that such a question will decrease participation by undocumented immigrants in
the national head count and that a last-minute addition to the questionnaire could undermine
its quality, as well. A lower initial response rate could also require the agency to hire more
field workers to track down those who haven’t answered and could boost costs by hundreds
of millions of dollars. A citizenship question will “destroy any chance for an accurate count,”
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in
Washington, D.C., said in a statement.
Environmental regulations rollback
The administration continued its efforts to roll back environmental regulations finalized
under former President Barack Obama. In late December 2017, it instructed federal land
managers to eliminate rules that place tighter controls and reporting requirements on
energy companies that use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands. A separate
directive required the government to cease fining energy companies for activities that
incidentally kill small numbers of birds and other animals protected by federal law. The
administration also rescinded guidance documents that encourage agencies to consider
how industrial development might affect climate change. Environmental groups say they will
go to court to try to overturn or delay the actions.
New plan to expand ofshore drilling
The administration on 4 January said it intends to lift an existing ban on selling offshore
oil leases for vast areas along the eastern, western, gulf, and arctic coasts of the United
States. The unprecedented expansion is intended to create jobs and assure U.S. “energy
dominance” in coming decades, the White House said. But the new plan, which will take
at least a year to implement, immediately drew bipartisan condemnation from politicians in
many coastal states, as well as environmentalists who fear potential spills and damage to
resources important to tourism and fisheries.
worry about risks
of a potential increase
in offshore oil rigs.
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