AstraZeneca neither confirms nor denies that it will ditch antibiotics research

Nature Newsblog - Wed, 2014-10-22 13:56

A computer image of a cluster of drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Melissa Brower

The fight against antibiotic-resistant microbes could suffer a major blow if widely circulated rumours are confirmed that pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is due to disband its in-house antibiotic development. The company called the rumours “highly speculative”, while not explicitly denying them.

On 23 October, drug-industry consultant David Shlaes wrote on his blog that AstraZeneca, a multinational behemoth headquartered in London, “has told its antibiotics researchers that they should make efforts to find other jobs in the near future”, and that in his opinion this heralds the end of in-house antibiotic development at the company. “As far as antibiotic discovery and development goes, this has to be the most disappointing news of the entire antibiotic era,” wrote Shlaes.

AstraZeneca would not directly address these claims when approached by Nature for comment. In its statement it said, in full:

The blog is highly speculative. We continue to be active in anti-infectives and have a strong pipeline of drugs in development. However, we have previously said on a number of occasions that as we focus on our core therapy areas (Oncology, CVMD [cardiovascular and metabolic diseases] and Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmune) we will continue to remain opportunity driven in infection and neuroscience, in particular exploring partnering opportunities to maximise the value of our pipeline and portfolio.

Research into antibiotics is notorious for its high cost and high failure rate. AstraZeneca has previously said that its main research focus would be on areas other than antibiotic development.

Public-health experts have been warning about a trend among large pharmaceutical companies to move away from antibiotics research — just as the World Health Organization and others have pointed to the rising threat of deadly multi-drug-resistant strains of bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Staphylococcus aureus (see ‘Antibiotic resistance: The last resort‘).

Categories: General, News

The discovery of Homo floresiensis: Tales of the hobbit

Nature - Wed, 2014-10-22 13:45

The discovery of Homo floresiensis: Tales of the hobbit

Nature 514, 7523 (2014).

Author: Ewen Callaway

In 2004, researchers announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis, a small relative of modern humans that lived as recently as 18,000 years ago. The ‘hobbit’ is now considered the most important hominin fossil in a generation. Here, the scientists behind the find tell its story.

Categories: General, Nature

Human evolution: Small remains still pose big problems

Nature - Wed, 2014-10-22 13:45

Human evolution: Small remains still pose big problems

Nature 514, 7523 (2014). doi:10.1038/514427a

Author: Chris Stringer

Ten years after the publication of a remarkable find, Chris Stringer explains why the discovery of Homo floresiensis is still so challenging.

Categories: General, Nature

Emergency planning: Be prepared

Nature - Wed, 2014-10-22 13:45

Emergency planning: Be prepared

Nature 514, 7523 (2014). doi:10.1038/514430a

Authors: Jennifer K. Pullium, Gordon S. Roble & Mark A. Raymond

Scenario-based training for disasters is better than just drawing up a paper plan, say Jennifer K. Pullium and colleagues.

Categories: General, Nature

More than half of 2007-2012 research articles now free to read

Nature Newsblog - Wed, 2014-10-22 12:00

More than half of all peer-reviewed research articles published from 2007 to 2012 are now free to download somewhere on the Internet, according to a report produced for the European Commission, published today. That is a step up from the situation last year, when only one year  – 2011 – reached the 50% free mark. But the report also underlines how availability dips in the most recent year, because many papers are only made free after a delay.

“A substantial part of the material openly available is relatively old, or as some would say, outdated,” writes Science-Metrix, a consultancy in Montreal, Canada, who conducted the study, one of a series of reports on open access policies and open data.

The study (which has not been formally peer-reviewed) forms part of the European Commission’s efforts to track the evolution of open access. Science-Metrix uses automated software to search online for hundreds of thousands of papers from the Scopus database.

The company finds that the proportion of new papers published directly in open-access journals reached almost 13% in 2012. The bulk of the Internet’s free papers are available through other means – made open by publishers after a delay, or by authors archiving their manuscripts online. But their proportion of the total seems to have stuck at around 40% for the past few years. That apparent lack of impetus is partly because of a ‘backfilling’ effect, whereby the past is made to look more open as authors upload versions of older paywalled papers into online repositories, the report says. During this last year, for instance, close to 14,000 papers originally published in 1996 were made available for free.

“The fundamental problem highlighted by the Science-Metrix findings is timing,” writes Stevan Harnad, an open-access advocate and cognitive scientist at the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada. “Over 50% of all articles published between 2007 and 2012 are freely available today. But the trouble is that their percentage in the most critical years, namely, the 1-2 years following publication, is far lower than that. This is partly because of publisher open access embargoes, partly because of author fears and sluggishness, but mostly because not enough strong, effective open access mandates have as yet been adopted by institutions and funders.”

The report’s conclusions are only estimates, as the automated software does not pick up every free paper, and this incompleteness must be adjusted for in the figures (typically adding around 5-6% to the total, a margin calculated by testing the software on a smaller, hand-checked sample of papers). And many of the articles, although free to read, do not meet formal definitions of open access – for example, they do not include details on whether readers can freely reuse the material. Éric Archambault, the founder and president of Science-Metrix, says it is still hard to track different kinds of open manuscripts, and when they became free to read.

The proportion of free papers also differs by country and by subject. Biomedical research (71% estimated free between 2011 and 2013) is far more open than chemistry (39%), for example. The study suggests that from 2008-2013, the world’s average was 54%, with Brazil (76%) and the Netherlands (74%) particularly high. The United Kingdom, where the nation’s main public funder, Research Councils UK, has set a 45% target for 2013-14, has already reached 64% in previous years, the report suggests.

The study comes during Open Access week, which is seeing events around the world promoting the ideas of open access to research. Yesterday saw the launch of the ‘Open Access Button’ in London – a website and app that allows users to find free research. If no free copy is available, the app promises to email authors asking them to upload a free version of their paper – with an explanation direct from the user who needs the manuscript. “We are trying to make open access personal – setting up a conversation between the author and the person who wants access,” says Joe McArthur, who co-founded the project and works at the Right to Research Coalition, an advocacy group in London.

Categories: General, News

Outbreak of great quakes underscores Cascadia risk

Nature Newsblog - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:34

Posted on behalf of Alexandra Witze.

The 18 great earthquakes that have struck Earth in the past decade hold ominous lessons for western North America, a top seismologist has warned. Many of these large quakes — including the 2004 Sumatra quake that spawned the Indian Ocean tsunami, and the 2011 Tohoku disaster in Japan — were surprisingly different from one another despite their similar geologic settings.

That variety implies that almost any scenario is possible in another part of the Pacific Rim where quake risk is thought to be high — along the Cascadia subduction zone offshore of Washington, Oregon, and other parts of the western United States and Canada.

“We do not fully understand the limits of what can happen,” says Thorne Lay, a seismologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “We have to be broadly prepared to respond.”

Lay spoke on 21 October at the Geological Society of America meeting in Vancouver, Canada, a city on the front lines of Cascadia earthquake risk.

The last great quake in the region happened in 1700. Conventional wisdom holds that the next one, perhaps as large as magnitude 9, could strike at any time in the next several hundred years. Geologically speaking, Cascadia is a classic subduction zone, where one plate of Earth’s crust plunges beneath another, building up stress and occasionally relieving it in large earthquakes.

The recent spate of great subduction-zone quakes, of magnitude 8 or larger, began with the 2004 Sumatra earthquake. On average, each year since then has brought 1.8 great quakes, more than twice the rate of the previous century.

In large part, they happened where and when seismologists expected them. “The quakes are basically filling in a deficiency of activity,” Lay says. But their details have been surprising.

The 2004 Sumatra quake, for instance, ruptured unexpected portions of a subduction zone off Indonesia, where the fault zone bends as opposed to running straight. That implies that areas in Cascadia with unusual geometry might also be at risk, Lay says.

In 2007, in Peru, a major earthquake began to happen, then essentially stopped for 60 seconds before picking up again and eventually generating a large tsunami. That start-stop-start pattern raises challenges for Cascadia because seismologists are trying to develop an accurate earthquake early warning system there.

And in April 2014, a Chilean quake ruptured a far shorter portion of a subduction zone than scientists had expected. That suggests that researchers can’t be complacent about thinking they know which parts of Cascadia might break, Lay says. (The worst-case scenario for Cascadia involves a rupture of approximately 1,000 kilometres.)

That’s not to say scientists aren’t preparing. The recently launched M9 project, coordinated out of the University of Washington in Seattle, aims to help officials cope with the risk of a great Cascadia quake. At the Vancouver meeting, Arthur Frankel of the US Geological Survey in Seattle showed early results of calculations of where the ground might shake the most. Enclosed basins, like Seattle, amplify the shaking, he reported.

Categories: General, News

Tarantula venom illuminates electrical activity in live cells

Biology News - Tue, 2014-10-21 18:19

Researchers have created a cellular probe that combines a tarantula toxin with a fluorescent compound to help scientists observe electrical activity in neurons and other cells. The probe binds to a voltage-activated potassium ion channel subtype, lighting up when the channel is turned off and dimming when it is activated.

Categories: Biology News, General

Physicists solve longstanding puzzle of how moths find distant mates

Biology News - Tue, 2014-10-21 18:19

The way in which male moths locate females flying hundreds of meters away has long been a mystery to scientists.

Categories: Biology News, General

New book list, October 8, 2014

Ernst Mayr Library Blog - Thu, 2014-10-09 13:24

Aggression in humans and other primates: biology, psychology, sociology.
Edited by Hans-Henning Kortüm & Jürgen Heinze. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, [2013]. HOLLIS# 014173649
BF575.A3 A5237 2013

Amphibian conservation: global evidence for the effects of interventions.
By Rebecca K. Smith and William J. Sutherland. Exeter: Pelagic Publishing, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014173581
QL644.7.S65 2014

Bee time: lessons from the hive.
By Mark L. Winston. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014. HOLLIS# 014020511
SF523.3.W547 2014

Between land and sea: the Atlantic Coast and the transformation of New England.
By Christopher L. Pastore. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014. HOLLIS# 014020516
GB459.4.P37 2014

Biota rossiĭskikh vod ͡IAponskogo mor͡ia (Biota of the Russian waters of the Sea of Japan). Volumes 1-9.
Glavnyĭ redaktor serii, V.L. Kasʹ͡ianov. Vladivostok: Dalʹnauka, 2004-. HOLLIS# 013416629
QH95.24.B56 2004

Cerambycidae sul-americanos (Coleoptera): taxonomia: subfamília Cerambycinae. Vol. 5: Cerambycini-Subtribo Sphallotrichina subtrib. nov., Callidiopini Lacordaire, 1869, Graciliini Mulsant, 1839, Neocorini trib. nov. Vol. 13: Subfamília Lamiinae, Hemilophini Thomson, 1868, parte I. Suplemento 3.
Ubirajara R. Martins, organizador. São Paulo: Sociedade Brasileira de Entomologia, 1997-. HOLLIS# 012107944
QL596.C4C47 1997 v. 5, 13 (pt. 1)

Catalogue of the living bivalvia of the continental coast of the Sea of Japan (East Sea) = Katalog sovremennykh dvustvorchatykh molli͡uskov kontinentalʹnogo poberezhʹi͡a I͡Aponskogo mori͡a.
By K.A. Lutaenko and R.G. Noseworthy. Vladivostok: Dalʹnauka, 2012. HOLLIS# 014202897
QL430.6.L88 2012

Crabs and shrimps of the Pacific Coast: a guide to shallow-water decapods from southeastern Alaska to the Mexican border.
By Gregory C. Jensen, Ph.D. 2nd edition. Bremerton (3808 Sundown Dr.), Washington: MolaMarine, ©2014. HOLLIS# 014203678
QL444.M33 J46 2014

Deepwater megabenthos of south-western Australia.
Edited by F.R. McEnnulty. Perth, W.A.: Western Australian Museum, 2011. HOLLIS# 014203554
QH95.55.A8D34 2011

Diversity, prevalence, and host specificity of avian Plasmodium and Haemoproteus in a Western Amazon assemblage.
By Maria Svensson-Coelho, John G. Blake, Bette A. Loiselle, Amanda S. Penrose, Patricia G. Parker, and Robert E. Ricklefs. Washington, D.C.: American Ornithologists’ Union, 2013. HOLLIS# 014174436
QL696.P2 S84 2013

Dolphin confidential: confessions of a field biologist.
By Maddalena Bearzi. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2012, ©2012. HOLLIS# 013165175
QL737.C432 B43 2012 [e-book]

Ecogeographic patterns of morphological variation in Elepaios (Chasiempis Spp): Bergmann’s, Allen’s, and Gloger’s rules in a microcosm.
By Eric A. Vanderwerf. Washington, D.C.: American Ornithologists’ Union, c2012. HOLLIS# 014174410
QL696.P255 V36 2012

Evolutionary dynamics of mammalian karyotypes.
Editors, Roscoe Stanyon, Alexander Graphodatsky. Basel; New York: Karger, 2012. HOLLIS# 014173617
QH390.E983 2012

An evolutionary perspective on germ cell specification genes in insects.
A dissertation presented by Benjamin Ewen-Campen. Thesis, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2014. HOLLIS# 014101226
QH607.E83 2014

Frogs: genetic diversity, neural development, and ecological implications.
Henry Lambert, editor. New York: Nova Publishers, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014122144
QL668.E2 F7747 2014

The influence of anthropogenic noise on birds and bird studies.
Edited by Clinton D. Francis and Jessica L. Blickley. Washington, D.C. : American Ornithologists’ Union, 2012. HOLLIS# 014174421
QL698.95.F73 2012

Linking bacterial symbiont physiology to the ecology of hydrothermal vent symbioses.
By Roxane Beinart. Thesis, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2014. HOLLIS# 013966038
QH548.B34 2013

Microbiology of the avian egg.
Edited by R.G. Board and R. Fuller. 1st ed. London; New York: Chapman & Hall, 1994. HOLLIS# 013599679
QR116.M53 1994

Mosquito eradication: the story of killing “Campto”.
Editors, Brian H. Kay and Richard C. Russell. Collingwood, VIC: CSIRO Publishing, [2013]. HOLLIS# 014173623
RC116.M66 2013

A natural history of Australian bats: working the night shift.
By Greg Richards and Les Hall; principal photographer, Steve Parish. Collingwood, Vic.: CSIRO Pub., ©2012. HOLLIS# 014173628
QL737.C5R478 2012eb [e-book]

Ninth International workshop on Agglutinated Foraminifera, Zaragoza, Spain, September 3-7, 2012: Abstract volume.
Edited by L. Alegret, S. Ortiz and M. A. Kaminski. London: The Grzybowski Foundation, 2012. HOLLIS# 014199577
QE772.I57 2012

North American amphibians: distribution and diversity.
By David M. Green, Linda A. Weir, Gary S. Casper, and Michael J. Lannoo. Berkeley: University of California Press, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014019981
QL651.G74 2014

A photographic guide to some common birds of Aravallis.
By Shriyans Bhandari. Rajasthan: Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., [2013]. HOLLIS# 014169384
QL691.I4 B53 2013

Planting for wildlife: a practical guide to restoring native forests.

Nicola Munro and David Lindenmayer. Collingwood, Vic.: CSIRO Publishing, 2011. HOLLIS# 014173633
SD409.M86 2011eb [e-book]

Predictors of juvenile survival in birds.
By Terri J. Maness and David J. Anderson. Washington, D.C.: American Ornithologists’ Union, 2013. HOLLIS# 014174443
QL698.2.M25 2013

Regenerat͡sii͡a u goloturiĭ. [Regeneration in holothurians].
[By] I. I͡U. Dolmatov, V.S. Mashanov. Vladivostok: Dalʹnauka, 2007. HOLLIS# 014202898
QL384.H7D65 2007

Report of the seventh session of the sub-committee on aquaculture: St Petersburg, Russian Federation, 7-11 October 2013.
Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014202550
SH3.F66 2013

A sparrowhawk’s lament: how British breeding birds of prey are faring.
By David Cobham; with illustrations by Bruce Pearson. Princeton, New Jersey; Woodstock, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom: Princeton University Press, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014173635
QL696.F3 C63 2014

Vyrashchivanie lichinok donnykh morskikh bespozvonochnykh v laboratornykh uslovii͡akh :prakticheskie rekomendat͡sii. [Rearing of benthic marine invertebrates under laboratory conditions :practical recommendations].
[By] S.D. Kashenko. Vladivostok: Dalʹnauka, 2010. HOLLIS# 014196398
QL362.8.K37 2010

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