ASM President's Bimonthly Newsletter -- March 2012

ASM - Members Bimonthly Newsletter
  March 2012  

Dear ASM Members:

ASM continues to play a pivotal role in the ongoing controversy surrounding redaction of the papers describing modifications that increase transmissibility of the H5N1 flu virus.

On January 31, our online journal mBio published an editorial and a series of commentaries on the H5N1 redaction controversy. The H5N1 discussion continued in mBio with a perspective article written by Michael Osterholm and Nicholas Kelley. Newly available in mBio are an editorial and two accompanying perspective articles on H5N1 biosafety issues. Thanks to our Meetings Department, we were able to livestream a special session on H5N1 from ASM's Biodefense Conference that was viewed around the world. Publicity from our Communications Department resulted in extensive press coverage in major public and scientific media, a sampling of which follows:

Genetically Altered Bird Flu Virus Not as Dangerous as Believed, Its Maker Asserts
New York Times
The scientist who made a deadly bird flu virus transmissible in mammals, touching off public fears of a pandemic, said Wednesday that the virus he created was neither as contagious nor as dangerous as people had been led to believe...

Biosecurity group to review new avian flu data (blog)

 US Biosecurity Board to Reconsider Revised H5N1 Flu Papers
We also maintain a resource on H5N1information that is regularly updated. This issue has the potential for a significant impact on the practice of microbiology, and we are currently developing a special session focusing on H5N1 issues at the ASM's General Meeting in San Francisco this June.

I would like to encourage you to attend the General Meeting June 16-19 and take advantage of discounts by registering before April 30. This is the first time for the General Meeting in San Francisco, and we're looking forward to a great meeting in a great city. Find out more information here.

Please see other news items below.

Bonnie Bassler

David Hooper

   American Academy of Microbiology

Eighty Fellows were elected to the AAM on January 24th at the Board of Governors Meeting in Washington, D.C.  The full list of new Fellows can be viewed here.  In the weeks to come, individual Fellows will each have their own webpage that will feature a picture of the Fellow and a brief description of their science.

   New Episodes of This Week in Microbiology

TWIMFour new episodes of This Week in Microbiology are now available:

TWiM #24: This year in microbiology

TWiM #25: Magnetotactic bacteria and totally drug-resistant TBTB

TWiM #26: Suum cuique

TWiM #27: An inflamed gut is good for Salmonella

   Education Journal Article Cited in Science

An article published in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education (JMBE) has been selected by Science magazine for its Editors' Choice section. The article, "Introductory Biology Textbooks Under-Represent Scientific Process,"urges authors and publishers to present and illustrate scientific investigations in textbooks as a strategy for supporting students' interest in biology, stimulating analytical skills, and inspiring students to pursue science. The article was published in the Perspectives section of JMBE. The full story is here.

   ASM Explores Opportunities in Burma

ASM International Affairs Director Jason Rao joined a delegation of representatives of scientific societies on a mission to Burma (Myanmar) this month to discuss opportunities for collaboration with American scientists and institutional capacity building. Sponsored by AAAS, the team was led by former S&T Advisor to the Secretary of State, Norman Neurieter. ASM provided briefings to hundreds of ministry officials, academic scientists, clinicians and students over the week-long trip, which was a hit in Burma, where laboratory capacity, science education, and research and development have all suffered from decades of neglect from the Burmese government.   ASM is working with philanthropic organizations to support next steps, which range from a LabCap-like effort, to institutional mentorship to their fledgling scientific societies.

   PSAB Expresses Concern About Grant Disclosure Bill

The Public and Scientific Affairs Board sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives expressing concern about HR 3433, the GRANT Act. Here is what this bill proposes:

  • Grant-making agencies required to post online complete copies of all applications submitted to them.
  •  Public disclosure of peer reviewers and peer review information at the individual grant level in some areas of research.

These requirements would be burdensome to federal agencies and universities and jeopardize intellectual property rights. The ASM's letter is available online. The ASM also cosigned a coalition letter opposing the legislation which was sent to members of the House of Representatives with the endorsement of 84 scientific organizations. 

   Action on Decreasing Antimicrobial Resistance

The PSAB sent a letter to the FDA supporting the January 4 order that prohibits certain uses of the cephalosporin class of antimicrobial drugs in cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys effective April 5, 2012.  The FDA took this action to preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans. Prohibiting these uses is intended to reduce the risk of cephalosporin resistance in certain bacterial pathogens.  The rule is open for comments until April 5, 2012.  The PSAB also cosigned a letter with the Infectious Diseases Society of America which is being sent to Congress urging it to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance, including incentivizing the development of new diagnostics and antibiotic R&D.

   President's FY 2013 Budget for Science and Public Health Posted

On February 13, the President released the Administration's FY 2013 budget request to Congress. PSAB staff attended science budget briefings at NIH and NSF and summarized highlights of the research and development and public health funding proposals which are posted on the Public Affairs web page.

   ASM Press Publishes Book on Pathogen Adaptation, Microevolution

Genome Plasticity and Infectious Diseases explores the rapidly evolving topic of pathogen adaptation and microevolution. Editors Jorg Hacker, Ulrich Dobrindt, and Reinhard Kurth assembled state-of-the art reviews from international experts in bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that explore genome fluidity of pathogenic microbes and their hosts.