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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of drug discovery and development stories.

UK researchers make stem cell breakthrough

UK researchers have successfully grown stem cells without having to use animal-derived serum. Researchers from the Roslin Institute successfully used `feeder' layers of human neonatal foreskin cells to provide nutrients and growth factors for the stem cells to grow. Previously, researchers have used mouse feeder cells to grow stem cells but scientists have been concerned that this method could lead to contamination. Earlier this year scientists revealed that embryonic stem cell lines available for research in the US contained a non-human molecule called N-glycolylneuraminic acid, and were therefore too contaminated and dangerous to use.

UK plans 'science cities'

Bristol, Birmingham and Nottingham will be made into 'science cities' under new plans announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown in this year's Budget. Revealing his annual budget for 2005 Brown said that the cities already have ìstrong science-based assetsî and the potential to generate business success through science. Other science and technology measures announced in the Budget include increasing public investment in the science base and tackling market failures that prevent companies from investing more in R&D.

Scientists map X chromosome

An international collaboration of scientists has released the first comprehensive analysis of the sequence of the human X chromosome. As part of the Human Genome Project, researchers from the US, UK, and Germany confirmed the existence of 1,098 protein-coding genes on the X chromosome. Only 54 of the 1,098 genes had functional counterparts on the smaller Y chromosome, the researchers found. More than 300 diseases have already been mapped to the X chromosome, including colour blindness and haemophilia.

Estonia reveals R&D spend

The Estonian government is planning to invest one billion Estonian kroons (Ä64m) on R&D this year. Estonia's prime minister, Juhan Parts, admitted that even though the country currently spends only 0.83 per cent of its gross domestic product on R&D, it would aim to increase R&D spend to 1 per cent by 2010. Although this figure is 9 per cent short of the EU's target of investing 3 per cent of GDP on R&D by 2010, Parts said that the government would be investing 200 million kroons a year to R&D by 2010.

Researchers identify skin cancer protein

US researchers have identified a protein that plays a key role in the spread of the skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma. Researchers from Stanford University found that a key fragment of the protein collagen VII was required for skin cancer cells to break free from neighbouring cells and spread. It is hoped the discovery will lead to new treatments for squamous cell carcinoma. The study is published in the journal Science.

Save British Science relaunches

Lobby group, Save British Science, has relaunched itself as the Campaign for Science and Engineering. The group, which was founded in 1986 in protest against cuts in university research, said that the name change would help its work ìbenefit from a name that more accurately reflects what we doî. Professor Richard Joyner, chairman of the Campaign added: ìThe situation has improved substantially under two Labour governments - and their continuing commitment to research and innovation is not in doubt.î

30th September 2008

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