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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

Could Cost Billions

NBC News reports that the new Alzheimer's disease drug from Biogen could cost Medicare in the US billions of dollars.

Not Quite Sent

The Biden Administration likely won't meet its goal of sending 80 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses abroad by the end of the month, according to the Washington Post.

DTC Regulation Proposals

A new report calls on UK policymakers to review direct-to-consumer genetic testing regulations, the Independent reports.

PNAS Papers on Mosquito MicroRNAs, Acute Kidney Injury, Trichothiodystrophy

In PNAS this week: microRNAs involved in Aedes aegypti reproduction, proximal tubule cell response to kidney injury, and more.