NIH budget talks, a new open access journal, a blood test for antibiotics, and breathing new life into CF testing. 

A Raise for the NIH?

(Science, 7/6/2016, Jocelyn Kaiser)

A US House panel approved a 4% raised for the US National Institutes of Health this week, short of the 6% increase approved last week by a Senate panel but still welcome news for a research agency that has been grappling with flat-funded budgets for the past 10 years. The US$33.1 billion budget includes $350 million more for Alzheimer’s disease research, $300 million (a $100 million increase) that the president had requested for the Precision Medicine Initiative and $45 million more, or a total of $195 million, for the cross-agency Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologiesbrain-mapping initiative. However, the budget does not include any money for President Biden’s moonshot that would double what we now spend on cancer research.

New Open Access Journal

(Nature, 7/6/2016, Declan Butler)

The large UK-based international charity, Wellcome Trust, announced this week that it will launch an open-access publishing venture later this year to allow grant recipients to publish their findings more quickly and to create a model that, according to the charity, other funders might adopt in the future. Management of the venture will be contracted out to an open-access publishing platform that publishes manuscripts and data sets within days of their submission, after a quick sanity check by its in-house editors, and then arranges post-publication peer review. Under this system, authors choose the reviewers of their paper, and whose names and reviews are published on the site alongside the article. Will the arrangement foster a system in which researchers choose reviewers who are likely to go easy on their work? The charity thinks that making the authors of the reviews public guards against this possibility.

Genetic Testing for CF 2.0

(GEN, 7/6/2016, Jeffrey Buguliskis)

For the past 20 years, a panel containing 23 of the most common Cystic Fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) variants has been applied to diagnosing the genetic disorder, as well as identifying carriers and affected newborns. Still, considering the fact there are approximately 2,000 possible variants for CFTR, we still have a long way to go toward understanding what triggers this disease. A recent study conducted by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Genetic Disease Screening Program of the California Department of Public Health have begun to genetically classify the broad array of these unannotated mutations and a separate effort known as the CFTR Project has been able to increase the number of annotated CFTR variants. As of 2016, the project has obtained data from 88,000 patients worldwide, leading to 276 annotated CFTR variants.

A Blood Test for Antibiotics

(The Scientist, 7/7/2016, Alison Takemura)

A study published this week in Science Translational Medicine enables researchers to distinguish between a viral and a bacterial infection by assaying just seven human genes. A clinical test based on these findings would enable doctors to more appropriately prescribe antibiotics, which are ineffective against viruses. The study addresses findings from a recent report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that doctors prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily in 30% of cases, which in turn promotes antibiotic resistance. To address the problem, scientists at Stanford University looked at more than 1,000 patient blood samples to identify gene activation signatures associated with either bacterial or viral infections

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery