Swine Flu Complacency and a Win for Biotech

Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:As the availability of swine flu vaccine steadily increases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is stepping up its efforts to combat a growing sense of complacency in the country about the pandemic. At a press conference last week, Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, reported that 76 children in the United States have died from the novel H1N1 virus since it surfaced in April. She compared that with the past three flu seasons in the country, which have recorded between 46 and 88 deaths in that age bracket. "It's only the beginning of October," Schuchat stressed. "Of course, the flu season often will last all of the way until May."

First impressions can be deceiving. The 2010 science budget, recently presented to parliament by the Spanish Science and Innovation Ministry, has now spread concern and uncertainty among the Spanish scientific community. In an open letter published in the national newspaper El Pa&iacutes, 51 biomedical investigators declared their "enormous perplexity and confusion" at what some perceive as a breach of the government's pledge to promote science and a knowledge-based economy.

Biotech execs and patent lawyers are cheering a decision by the new head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, David Kappos. Under pressure of a lawsuit filed by attorneys unhappy with the proposed rules, Kappos recently scrapped procedural changes proposed during the Bush Administration that were designed to streamline operations and reduce the backlog of unsettled patent applications. For example, the planned "continuation rules" would have limited the number of times an application could be resubmitted for review without extensive justification. Other changes would have limited the number of claims per application. Opponents--significantly including GlaxoSmithKline--sued to block the changes.

For more on these stories and the latest science policy news and analysis, visit ScienceInsider.

Posted in Scientific Community, Health, Biology, Europe, Policy