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Science Gives Way to Safety

University of Wisconsin researcher Gary Splitter has had his lab privileges suspended for five years after a federal investigation found he was conducting unapproved tests with an infectious disease, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education's Paul Basken. The researcher fired back at the university, saying federal officials had also found the school negligent in the way it handles biological agents, some of which could be sought by terrorists. "Dr. Splitter said that the university was ultimately responsible for telling the government exactly what antibiotic-resistant genes it was using and that the university allowed its biosafety operation to become so understaffed that it couldn't keep up with the workload," Basken writes. NIH fined the institution $40,000. According to Basken, Splitter's work in this case involved finding a vaccine for brucellosis — a disease humans can pick up from farm animals. In his work, Splitter experimented with various antibiotic-resistant genes of Brucella, which is federally regulated, and CDC found that Splitter's lab didn't have approval for all the genes it was testing, Basken reports.

The news comes in the same week that PNAS published an analysis saying the restrictive biosafety laws enacted after September 11, 2001 have led to fewer published studies in the hazardous agents field and more scientists turning to other areas of research, he adds.

The Scan

Team Tracks Down Potential Blood Plasma Markers Linked to Heart Failure in Atrial Fibrillation Patients

Researchers in BMC Genomics found 10 differentially expressed proteins or metabolites that marked atrial fibrillation with heart failure cases.

Study Points to Synonymous Mutation Effects on E. Coli Enzyme Activity

Researchers in Nature Chemistry saw signs of enzyme activity shifts in the presence of synonymous mutations in a multiscale modeling analysis of three Escherichia coli genes.

Team Outlines Paternal Sample-Free Single-Gene Approach for Non-Invasive Prenatal Screening

With data for nearly 9,200 pregnant individuals, researchers in Genetics in Medicine demonstrate the feasibility of their carrier screening and reflex single-gene non-invasive prenatal screening approach.

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.