Senior U.S. Health & Science Correspondent, 3 Times Square
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Apr 27, 2015

Decline in U.S. science spending threatens economy, security: MIT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Warning of an “innovation deficit,” scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say declining government spending on basic research is holding back potentially life-saving advances in 15 fields, from robotics and fusion energy to Alzheimer’s disease and agriculture.

Science funding is “the lowest it has been since the Second World War as a fraction of the federal budget,” said MIT physicist Marc Kastner, who led the committee that wrote “The Future Postponed” report, issued on Monday. “This really threatens America’s future.”

Apr 27, 2015

Quake warnings of minutes, not hours, are possible, but pricey

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nepal’s record of earthquakes dates to at least the 13th century, with significant temblors striking every 75 years or so. And through all that time, in Nepal as in most seismically active areas, there has been one constant: people in the path of destruction have had no idea when the shaking would start.

Even after decades of research, “our ability to predict earthquakes is still non-existent,” said seismologist Peggy Hellweg, of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.

Apr 23, 2015

First experiment ‘editing’ human embryos ignites ethical furor

NEW YORK, April 23 (Reuters) – Biologists in China reported
carrying out the first experiment to alter the DNA of human
embryos, igniting an outcry from scientists who warn against
altering the human genome in a way that could last for

The study from China appeared last weekend in an obscure
online journal called Protein & Cell. In an interview published
on Wednesday on the news site of the journal Nature, lead author
Junjiu Huang of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou said both
Nature and Science had rejected the paper, partly for ethical

Apr 22, 2015

Tekmira Ebola drug succeeds in small monkey study

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An experimental Ebola drug from Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp cured all three monkeys intentionally infected with the virus, scientists reported on Wednesday, the first such success against the strain of Ebola in West Africa’s 2014-2015 outbreak.

Although other experimental treatments appeared to help Ebola patients last year, especially in the United States, those one-time uses cannot prove efficacy against the “Makona” strain, since patients’ recovery might be due to other causes. Similarly, drugs, including Mapp Biopharmaceutical’s ZMapp, cured monkeys in lab experiments, but in a strain of Ebola different from that responsible for the current outbreak, the worst ever recorded.

Apr 16, 2015

Obama administration to remove hurdle to ‘wellness’ penalties

NEW YORK (Reuters) – In what would be a significant and hard-fought victory for U.S. businesses, the Obama administration on Thursday said it will propose new rules for workplace wellness programs that would treat as voluntary programs that penalize workers thousands of dollars for not participating.

That decision, which will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, opening 60 days for public comment, would likely remove a legal challenge to the wellness program at Honeywell International Inc.

Apr 13, 2015

Academics rate women job applicants higher than identical men: study

NEW YORK (Reuters) – When hundreds of U.S. college faculty members rated junior scientists based on scholarly record, job interview performance and other information with an eye toward which should be hired, they preferred women over identically qualified men two-to-one, scientists reported on Monday.

The “candidates” were invented in order to see which factors – professional ones as well as things like gender and parental status – affect the evaluation of potential hires, part of an effort to explain women’s underrepresentation in academic science.

Apr 1, 2015

Merck, NewLink Ebola vaccine appears safe, effective in new studies

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Early-stage trials of an experimental Ebola vaccine, two in the United States and four in Africa and Europe, have found that it appears to be safe and triggered robust production of Ebola-fighting antibodies, scientists reported on Wednesday.

Since trials cannot ethically expose volunteers to Ebola, the production of antibodies is a proxy for whether vaccines could prevent or even treat the disease.

Mar 29, 2015

Battling nightmare infections: US CDC’s plan to beat supberbugs

CHICAGO/NEW YORK, March 29 (Reuters) – With painstaking
effort, a group of Chicago hospitals has managed to cut by half
the number of infections caused by an especially deadly type of
superbug. Now U.S. health officials want that kind of campaign
to go national.

The White House on Friday told the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention to slash rates of infections from
antibiotic-resistant bacteria by 2020 as part of a plan to
prevent patient deaths and curb overuse of antibiotics
administered to humans and animals.

Mar 26, 2015

Two experimental Ebola vaccines pass safety test in African trial

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) – Two experimental Ebola
vaccines, one from GlaxoSmithKline PLC and the other
from biotech start-up NewLink Genetics Corp, “appear to
be safe” part way through a clinical trial being conducted in
Liberia, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) said on

The two vaccines, each given in a single injection, are
being tested for safety and efficacy on more than 600 people in
Liberia in a mid-stage clinical trial sponsored by the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a branch of NIH.

Mar 26, 2015

Olympus issues ‘urgent’ steps for cleaning device linked to superbugs

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The largest manufacturer of medical devices at the center of recent superbug outbreaks in the U.S. issued an “urgent safety notification” to health providers on Thursday, detailing new procedures for disinfecting the equipment and urging them to adopt the procedures “as soon as possible.”

Manufacturer Olympus Corp said in a 13-page letter and detailed instructions for cleaning the devices, called duodenoscopes, that a small-bristle brush required for the new cleaning procedures would be shipped “no later than May 8.”

    • About Sharon

      "After covering science and medicine at Newsweek, then the Wall Street Journal, then Newsweek again, I joined Reuters in 2012 to report on neuroscience, genetics, cognitive science, and other research. My books have focused on the brain: 2007's Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain (the first popular account of the revolution in neuroplasticity), and 2012's The Emotional Life of Your Brain (with Richard J. Davidson)."
      Joined Reuters:
    • More from Sharon

      The Emotional Life of Your Brain (2012)
      Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain (2007)
      The Mind and the Brain (2002)
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