June 2013

Open channels

Comments from various issues of ASBMB Today

“In need of a new narrative,” Natasha C. Brooks, May 2013
Thank you, Dr. Brooks. I happened upon the ASBMB website while preparing to discuss my story this Sunday at a breast cancer event. Because I am a pharmacist, they wanted to touch on (triple-negative breast cancer) and African-Americans and treatments. Like my mother in 2008, I was diagnosed in 2010 with triple-negative breast cancer. As I researched treatments, I quickly stopped. My mother passed in 2012, and, according to articles I have read, I am soon to follow. My doctors’ goals were simple: keep me cancer-free long enough until a treatment for TNBC is developed. I would welcome hearing from researchers at breast cancer events discussing the progress they are making. I have no plans to dig my own ditch. Yes, Black Girls Do Run! Look out, for we do CrossFit soon!
Nancie Richberg
“With a lot of help from my friends,” Christine Guthrie, May 2013
Many thanks to Dr. Guthrie for this honest and courageous article. It is very nice, as she discovered, to hear that others in the field face these challenges that so many of us face and will face and that they can still be successful in the midst of that. I appreciate hearing a very honest and open account of challenges that can arise during one’s career (also kudos to this entire article series). Also great to hear there is a supportive community out there.
Angela Schlegel, ASBMB undergraduate honor society, University of Arizona
“The quiet creep of Alzheimer’s disease,” Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay, April 2013
A paper published in 2011 indicates that taking two 220 mg naproxen tablets every day after age 70 substantially diminishes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but only in asymptomatic individuals after two to three years on this regimen. By contrast, NSAIDs including naproxen had an adverse effect on patients with signs of AD pathogenesis, including those at the very early stages of cognitive impairment. Unfortunately, this trial (ADAPT) was not continued as long as it should have been because of health concerns about the cardiotoxic effects of one of the NSAIDs undergoing testing (celecoxib, Celebrex). However, clearly anyone with a family history of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or over the age of 60 should definitely consider taking daily naproxen as a preventive measure as long as no cognitive defects are already apparent, and they have the consent of their physician. Naproxen has a good overall safety profile and is available over the counter in the United States (Aleve). However, like all NSAIDs that block cyclooxygenase I (COX-1), there are known side effects, and it might not be possible for some individuals to tolerate this regimen.
Conflicts of interest: None. I do not work for any company that sells naproxen, nor do I own stock or give lectures for such companies. In summary, I do not derive any benefit whatsoever from the sale of naproxen. I am only concerned about those who are affected by this awful disease.
Reference: Breitner, J.C. et al. Extended results of the Alzheimer’s disease anti-inflammatory prevention trial. Alzheimer’s and Dementia 7, 402 – 411 (2011).
Gary Clark, University of Missouri School of Medicine


We reported in the May issue that Hudson Freeze was elected the next vice president of science policy for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and said that his new term would begin July 1. His term as VP-elect for science policy begins July 1, and his term as VP for science policy begins July 1, 2014.

Scientists on Twitter tell the NIH what they think about sequestration

On the morning of May 7, National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins asked those in the Twitterverse to let him know how sequestration, or across-the-board federal budget cuts, is affecting biomedical research. Scientists replied in full force. Below are some examples. You can read the ASBMB Storify containing more than 100 responses at at the bottom of this page.
The tweet that started it all:

@NIHDirector: I want to hear; tell me how the #sequester is affecting your biomedical research right now. Use #NIHSequesterImpact

Many were worried about research that won't be started or completed due to spending cuts:

@DrStelling: @NIHDirector Have solid prelim data 4 new optical diagnostics- can I do follow up in my nation w/ #NIHSequesterImpact ? Or do I go to China?
@lauramariani: @NIHDirector Both our PCR machines are broken. Until we get a grant, we can't buy a new one. We are a genetics lab.
@AizenmanLab: We had to can a project to investigate a novel potential target for treating childhood epilepsy. #NIHSequesterImpact
@KBibbinsDomingo: Largest study of minority children with #asthma with groundbreaking findings drastically cut #NIHSequesterImpact @ucsfcvp @CTSIatUCSF

A lot of scientists were worried about jobs that have been lost or never begun due to sequestration:

@travischapman: I was told 3 times that despite being qualified for the job, the lab was no longer hiring due to instability in funding #NIHSequesterImpact
@kejames: Talented scientists with stellar CVs can’t find/keep jobs so they leave science after we’ve invested millions in them. #NIHSequesterimpact
@JDOteroCruz: @NIHDirector After I interviewed at NIEHS, the hiring freeze stopped my research career & put me in a long unemployment. #NIHSequesterImpact
@mkane8_11: No$ to stay on in my graduate lab, left with PhD and no postdoc research position. 2.5 mo underemployed& waiting for job #NIHSequesterImpact

Many scientists wondering which side of the funding line their grant will fall on post-sequester:

@WatersLabMSU: #NIHSequesterimpact Bad timing. Tenure decision Fall '13. NSF CAREER funded but cut in half. R21 scored 21 but payline is 20! R01 pending.
@DrLizzyMoore: Grant climate turning into 'Hunger Games'. Not conducive for moving Science forward. #NIHSequesterImpact
@hirscheylab: @NIHDirector First R01 has a fundable score, but nearly 12 months later still no word on funding #NIHSequesterImpact
@roseszabady: Waiting extra 2 months to hear if there's money to fund my approved F32 postdoc fellowship; considering industry instead. #NIHsequesterimpact

Many scientists had worries about the future: future job prospects, future funding issues, and the future of U.S. science:

@drugmonkeyblog: I had to refuse to take on a once-in-a-decade graduate student this year due to #NIHSequesterImpact @NIHDirector . This one really hurt.
@TheJimFisher: The NIH will have invested ∼ $750K in my training after my MD/PhD. Would suck for them to lose me to private practice. #NIHSequesterImpact
@rtwillett: Cutting innovation to keep the lights on. Is this the way to a knowledge economy and an increase in STEM? #NIHSequesterImpact
@CncrKlr: @NIHDirector Science is no longer fun. The joy is no longer there. Hard to mentor undergrads and grad student to stay. #NIHSequesterImpact


Comments about the U.S. global leadership in biomedical research, comments about moving abroad to conduct science, and comments from abroad about U.S. science:

@DevilInPgh: #NIHSequesterImpact may force me to look for postdoc positions outside the US (Canada, England, Australia, or Israel)
@rxnm_: I am leaving the US to start a lab, basic research can't be held hostage to short-term political games.
#NIHSequesterImpact @NIHDirector
@mollycrockett: Incentive to stay in Europe- more funding opportunities here #NIHSequesterImpact

Other topics of concern:

@alisa_shea: Barely saw NIH-funded PI husband BEFORE sequstr; look frwrd to single parenting now. Science marriage not for weak. #NIHSequesterImpact
@Bashir_Course9: #NIHSequesterImpact is going to make it harder for NIH to maintain a diverse bio-med workforce. Things weren't great before & will get worse
@kejames: Women in sci are already @ a disadvantage. #NIHSequesterimpact makes it worse by intensifying the ‘2-body problem’ & pre-tenure desperation
@bwcorb: I hope #NIHSequesterImpact will mean more scientists involved in political process
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