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This Week in Science: Jul 11, 2008

Drawing on a survey conducted by the US National Science Foundation, the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology ranked undergraduate institutions by the number their former students who went on to receive PhDs from US institutions in 2006. The leader was Tsinghua University, followed by Peking University. The University of California, Berkeley was third, and Seoul National University placed fourth.

A Science news focus looks at Harvard University's Steven Hyman. This provost is working to bring former university president Larry Summer's idea of a new Harvard science complex that will bridge disparate disciplines as well as the academia-industry divide to fruition. "We're trying a very different way in answer to our critics, who have seen us as irretrievably Balkanized," says Hyman.

Harvard's Christopher Walsh led a team of researchers that studied families in which parents have shared recent ancestors to look for genes involved in autism-spectrum disorders. They used homozygosity mapping of these families to uncover loci affected by a mutation, often a large deletion. The affected genes include ones whose gene expression level changes when neurons are active. In a related Perspective, Vanderbilt's James Sutcliffe says that showing that effect is "provocative." He adds, "Because autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, emphasis has been placed on prenatal development, which is guided by intrinsic gene-expression patterns. The brain continues to develop long after birth… But if those genes are disrupted by mutation or copy number variation, that could suggest that the process of activity-regulated synaptic development itself is disrupted in some way."

The Scan

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.