Effect Measure

Skeptical, but Hope Springs Eternal.

The heaviest of the heavy-hitter science journals in the US is Science Magazine, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). It publishes in all aspects of science. Its main competitor is the venerable Nature magazine in the UK. I subscribe to both. They come every week. Since I am overwhelmed by work and scientific papers in general and have a journal of my own to edit (full disclosure), these weekly news and science sources more likely than not pile up unread. But because I subscribe I can easily get the latest hot paper off their website or an old one I see cited, so I keep my subscriptions. Both have excellent science journalists and both commission perspective pieces to provide background and context written by experts. Now we learn (through Science magazine’s blog, ScienceInsider; Nature’s counterpart is called The Great Beyond) that AAAS/Science magazine is launching a new journal, Science Translational Medicine.

With all the journals out there, and so many unread (even though subscribed to), why do we need this journal? Here’s the rationale:

Moving discoveries out of the lab and into clinics has become one of the top goals of biomedical research leaders. They’ve called for programs to deploy research findings more rapidly and get young investigators interested in the nitty-gritty work of developing a new drug or treatment. Today AAAS, publisher of ScienceInsider, is stepping into this area with a new journal called Science Translational Medicine.

The journal’s home page explains that translational medicine “builds on basic research advances – studies of biological processes using cell cultures, for example, or animal models – and uses them to develop new therapies or medical procedures.” Science Translational Medicine will publish research and commentary every Wednesday, and selected papers will appear in a monthly print edition. (Jocelyn Kaiser, ScienceInsider)

That’s the idea. It’s not new, even for a journal. There’s been a Journal of Translational Medicine published for six years. You can go and read it any time you want because all its content is Open Access. The new journal from AAAS will be subscription only.

The phrase “translational medicine” seems to make sense on its surface but once you scratch the surface you see multiple meanings and complexities. You’d think that if anything tied the different meanings together it would be at minimum that translational medicine would try to reduce barriers between science at the bench and the rest of the world. You don’t do that by publishing on a subscription only model. Subscription to Science Magazine supports its many other functions (news and commentary, for example) but it is a barrier. Why not make the new journal completely Open Access if you want the world of entrepreneurs and governments and non-profits to be able to see and figure out new ways to apply science?

The Senior Advisor to the new journal is Elias Zerhouni, Bush’s NIH Director. “Bench to bedside” was a favorite topic of his and he moved NIH in that direction, arguing it could be done without compromising the basic science that has always been NIH’s strength. Some of us feared (with some justification, I think) that the result was going to turn NIH into the Pharm Team for the drug industry. Already it is a scandal that taxpayer dollars underwrite research that Big Pharma scarfs up and profits from, selling it back to us at a premium. To his credit, Zerhouni pushed for requiring NIH funded research papers to go Open Access, and although he wasn’t completely successful in resisting the influence of the big scientific publishers (including AAAS) for whom Open Access is a perceived threat, he did make a limited form happen. Yet now he is presiding over a subscription-only journal whose objective is allegedly to make science more accessible.

The question that remains to be seen is exactly what kind of science will be translated into what kind of applications. We have no shortage of high technology high cost applications already. What we need is a journal that will push low cost low technology applications. This doesn’t mean simple science. It could be very sophisticated science. This is the kind of thing that the MIT Media Lab has been doing for years. But somehow I don’t feel confident this subscription-only offshoot of a journal known for the fanciest kind of science will go in that direction. They are already talking about articles on regulation and patent law along with science.

That’s translation, all right. Bench to bucks.

Comments

  1. #1 Jonathon Singleton
    October 9, 2009

    Revere, “Subscription to Science Magazine supports its many other functions (news and commentary, for example) but it is a barrier. Why not make the new journal completely Open Access if you want the world of entrepreneurs and governments and non-profits to be able to see and figure out new ways to apply science?”

    Cheers Revere, your sentiment is shared by a person like myself, on a fixed income, who has to make hard choices… Food for around three days or 24 hours online access to this Science Pay per article @ US $15.00:

    Science Magazine Reports — “Broad and Potent Neutralizing Antibodies from an African Donor Reveal a New HIV-1 Vaccine Target” By Laura M. Walker, Sanjay K. Phogat, et. al, (9 October 2009), Science 326 (5950), 285. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1178746]

    My life is a complete joke in Smalltown Perth, Western Australia — I’ve fuck all rights vis a vis the state Liberal government (remember, I was queerbashed by corrupt cops in the late 1990s and the FOI department have protected these individuals so I cannot get access to names), therefore I have not been able to develop a legal case and/or get a required police clearance” form needed by most employers… So, I’m stuck in a violent nazi shithole on a fixed income from the federal government, living from hand to mouth.

    Oh, did I mention the fact October is GAY AND LESBIAN PRIDE in Perth. Haha fucking ha — the younger queers are a dogpack of inbred spoiltbrat snobs who openly laugh at the fact their parents (who are around my age) supported and elected homophobic politicians during the 1980s and 90s…

    Revere, “to be able to see and figure out new ways to apply science” — why are those who seek knowledge kicked down and kept down by developmentally arrested bullies!?!

  2. #2 Otto
    October 9, 2009

    “your sentiment is shared by a person like myself, on a fixed income, who has to make hard choices… Food for around three days or 24 hours online access to this Science Pay per article @ US $15.00″

    You couldn’t write away for an offprint? There’s nobody at UWA who’d spot you a copy?

  3. #3 miso
    October 9, 2009

    Jonathon,
    revere is in his own hell. Zanamivir-phobia means H274Y is making a joke of Tamiflu but the media can only mention Tamiflu, including ironically, Tamiflu resistance, but not zanamivir or the options that should be pursued. Recently two intensive care influenza patients near death recovered when they were treated with iv zanamivir, more than two weeks (not just 48hrs) after Tamiflu (treated within 48hrs) and then Relenza failed .
    Roche has a strangle hold on the NI antiviral sales and the media, and it will take more than resistance, terror, and death, for science to make a dent in the Roche “truthspeak”, and the flocks of Roche parrots posing as health professionals.

    iv peramivir might also work the same miracle in the intensive care wards, but there is still a concern because Biocryst hasn’t established H274Y resistance to peramivir is overcome with higher doses.

    This is for education purposes only, which is all the SEA Infectious Clinical Research Network have done with it for the last five years, because GSK haven’t supplied iv zanamivir for the trials. Here is the information for how they could have trialled iv zanamivir. Recipes included.

    http://www.seaicrn.org/adminfiles/sea003/mop/sea003_section_7_managing_pharmacy_supplies.pdf

    starting at page 6

    Jonathon, I feel your pain. Clearly you’ve given up waiting for a blog suitable to bare your gay angst, and I’ve given up waiting for an unbiased blog discussing the problems associated with reliance on Tamiflu, only Tamiflu, nothing but Tamiflu.

  4. #4 revere
    October 9, 2009

    miso: I let you rant here because I let a lot of people rant here. I rant here. You are so obsessed with Roche and zanamivir that you don’t even both with intellectual honesty and fair characterization any more. You are entitled to your opinion and I’m letting you state it but I have no respect for the way you are doing it.

  5. #5 miso
    October 12, 2009

    revere,
    make up your mind, let me rant, entitled to my opinion, or my post has been “moderated” for the last two days and still hasn’t appeared. I’ve kept a copy, here it is again,

    reverve,
    I’m just as disgusted by Effect Measure (U.S. media in general) pro Tamiflu bias , so I will stop posting here if two comments ask me to stop. I accept yours is the first, only one more required, and in anticipation of the second, I wish all the E.M. readers goodbye, and good luck with Tamiflu.

    Before I go I’ll remind you of “Swine flu and Tamiflu resistance”(http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2009/06/swine_flu_and_tamiflu_resistan.php) when revere mentioned relenza.

    “Relenza is in active form at the outset and cannot be absorbed orally. It must be inhaled, leading to asthmatic reactions in some, ineffective dosage in those with breathing difficulties, and no drug at sites beyond the respiratory tract. Despite these drawbacks, it has so far produced little or no viral resistance. Tamiflu is absorbed orally and converted by the liver into the active form, so it gets to other organs and can be taken by people unable to inhale Relenza. But it has other problems. One is a tendency for the flu virus to become resistant to it.”

    How remarkably unbiased, all the relenza negatives (real and imagined), and an admission of Tamiflu problems, but only mentioning “a tendency for the flu virus to become resistant to it” In 2005 the Lancet compared Relenza and Tamiflu and found Relenza was just as effective as Tamiflu and caused fewer side effects.
    http://www.flu.org.cn/upfile/attachment/200581392031.pdf

    So I’m the one who doesn’t even both with intellectual honesty and fair characterization?

    How could anyone pretend to know about NI antivirals and not have read the research. No amount of money spent by Roche has changed the science known in 2005, it just influenced the fund-centric health professionals from using it to demand better alternatives.

    “One strength of the neuraminidase inhibitors oseltamivir and zanamivir (Relenza) over the older adamantanes is that they are less prone to selecting for resistant influenza viruses. Indeed, no virus resistant to zanamivir, which is currently available only in an inhaled form, has yet been isolated from immunocompetent patients after treatment. The recent emergence of oseltamivir-resistant variants is therefore a matter of immediate concern.

    Why is resistance developing to oseltamivir? Several years ago,structural analysis predicted that aspects of the chemical structure of oseltamivir (not present in zanamivir) could facilitate the development of resistance mutations that would permit neuraminidase to function, allowing drug-resistant virus to survive and propagate. This prediction is now being validated by clinical data.

    The mechanism of the development of resistance is illustrated in the diagram. The influenza neuraminidase releases newly formed viruses from infected cells, allowing them to spread from cell to cell. The inhibitor molecules mimic the natural substrate of the influenza neuraminidase (the sialic acid receptors) and bind to the active site, preventing neuraminidase from cleaving host-cell receptors and releasing new virus. All the resistant variants thus far have contained specific mutations in the neuraminidase molecule; but since neuraminidase serves an essential purpose, mutations that allow the virus to survive must not inactivate the enzyme.

    To accommodate the bulky side chain of oseltamivir in the active site, the neuraminidase molecule must undergo rearrangement to create a pocket (Panel A). Zanamivir, by contrast, binds to the active site without any rearrangement of the molecule. Several mutations that limit the necessary molecular rearrangement may diminish the binding of oseltamivir (Panel B). Molecular-level analysis (Panel C) shows that the amino acid termed E276 must rotate and bond with R224 to form a pocket for the side chain of oseltamivir. The mutations R292K, N294S, and H274Y inhibit this rotation and prevent the pocket from forming, resulting in resistance to oseltamivir. The mutations nonetheless allow the binding of natural sialic acid substrate, so mutated virus can survive and propagate. In contrast, the binding of zanamivir does not require any reorientation of amino acids, so these mutated viruses remain sensitive to that drug. An E119V mutation also interferes only with oseltamivir binding, possibly because a water molecule can fit between oseltamivir and valine at the active site but cannot insinuate itself between zanamivir and valine at residue 119.

    These mechanisms have clinical implications. The mutations identified in the resistant viruses have thus far all been in the amino acids mentioned above.

    http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/353/25/2633

    I rant do I? Maybe thats because long ago I realised revere didn’t pay any attention to information that doesn’t blindly endorse Tamiflu. I had posted the source of the above article twice, once in Jan 2008,
    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2008/01/bird_flu_in_egypt.php

    and again in April 2009,
    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2009/04/swine_flu_mini_science_primer.php

    did revere understand and incorporate any of it? Clearly not. Is America and the world headed for an influenza hell in a hand basket? Clearly.

  6. #6 frank
    January 28, 2012

    Science Translational Medicine: a Journal with an impact factor of 3.5…Very few people read it and even fewer cite it. Why bother?

  7. #7 Flu
    March 17, 2012

    Sci TM will get an IF of more than 10 in 2012.