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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of drug discovery and development stories

A total of $450m (£245m) in grants has been handed out from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to allow innovative scientists around the world to realise their ideas for tackling some of the toughest challenges facing human health. Among the 43 projects to receive funding, all of which were winners of the Grand Challenges in global health, several focus on developing vaccines ñ temperature-resistant vaccines that donít require refrigeration, and powder/water mix formulations for children were among the examples. Lorne Babiuk from the University of Saskatchewan, in Canada, secured $5.6m to combine three whooping cough vaccines into one, which would be delivered via the mucosal lining in the nose or mouth.

University science departments under threat

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFC) is expected to publish a report this week outlining its plans to support academic subjects that are part of the economic fabric of the country, including many sciences. Cash-strapped universities have been forced to downscale some provision of science and engineering teaching and some have even closed departments following a drop in interest by students. Pressure groups have called for an increase in public money to help keep the science courses running, but universities have argued that the problem needs to be tackled in schools. A recent survey for exam board OCR revealed that the majority of 13- to 16-year olds find science lessons ìboring, confusing or dullî. The HEFC report was commissioned by former Secretary for Education, Charles Clarke.

Male fertility problems

The number of men in Europe undergoing treatment for fertility problems may outstrip the number of women doing the same, according to a report commissioned by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. The number of intracytoplasmic sperm injections (ICSIs) ñ a procedure normally used to combat male infertility ñ has grew by nearly 10 per cent between 2000 and 2002, and for the first time surpassed the number of conventional in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures undertaken across Europe. Looking at 24 countries across Europe, the report revealed that people in Britain have the second worst access, after those living in Croatia, to assisted reproduction. In Britain, ICSI treatment has not yet become more widely used than conventional IVF.

30th September 2008

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