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February 01, 2012

News roundup: open access, new funding for personalized medicine and spinal cord injury update

by Lisa Willemse

Some updates and news items of note:

Call for boycott of subscriber-based journals gains momentum

The ongoing friction between proponents of open access and the academic publishers has jumped into the spotlight once again with calls from a number of academics, most notably from prominent British mathmetician Tim Gowers, who publicly announced his decision to stop submitting and reviewing for Elsevier. His objections are worth reading. Within days of his comments, a web site was created that allows other researchers to pledge their support for open access and against the practices of Elsevier and other academic publishers. At time of writing, there were over 2400 signatures. Of course, this is not the first time such calls for open access have surfaced from within the research community, the last big push resulted in the formation of the Public Library of Science in 2000. 

Nor are the sentiments limited to the mathematics field -- within stem cells, Jim Till has long been a proponent of open access and keeps a close eye on relevant news on his blog and Alexey Bersenev has several posts on the topic on his blog, Stem Cell Assays. His summary of the current events includes a good list of the reasons for open access as well as links to other sources for the interested reader.

Shift to personalized medicine finds federal support

Yesterday, the Canadian Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, announced a new initiative worth upwards of $135 million ($67.5M from federal sources, to be matched by partner funds) with a focus on personalized medicine -- the use of genetics, biomarkers and environmental conditions to tailor disease treatments to individual patients. The announcement was essentially a call for applications and while specific projects are not yet known, they will have a strong genomics component and be readily translatable into a clinical setting. More reason for those working in translational research to be happy, and yet another sign that basic research is in trouble.  

A good chunk of the funds is coming from Genome Canada, with other support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium. Specifically, the contribution from the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium will support the highest ranking cancer stem cell research project. All projects are expected to last four years.  

Update to spinal cord injury summary

Finally, a note that the entry on spinal cord injury within the Stem Cell Network's patient section has been updated and expanded. We are working to update all the entries in this section and to add new ones in the coming year. 


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Stem cell research has shown a lot of positive results when dealing with many different issues throughout the body. Embryonic stem cells have been touted as a potential medical miracle. Diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and spinal-cord injury are among the devastating maladies that might be treated by turning these versatile cells into healthy replacements for just about any damaged tissue, from the pancreas to the brain. The impact that stem cell research had had on all of these diseases is remarkable. There have been some early stages of curing spinal cord issues The researchers are able to take a paralyzed mouse and by injecting stem cells into its spinal cord, after treatment the mouse is able to regain movement in its body.

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