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AAAS Advancing Science Seminar Highlights
Promise of Technology in Addressing Disease
At the October 14 AAAS Advancing Science Seminar, "Technology and the Promise of Health," top U.S. scientists described a world in which stem cells repair damaged hearts, gene therapy shrinks malignant tumors, drugs restore memory, and vitamins and proper nutrition prevent many of the nation's most costly and painful diseases.
"There was a time when many of us might have thought that science drove technology," said AAAS CEO Alan Leshner, who introduced the speakers at yesterday's event. "Today, technology is driving science as much, if not more, than the reverse."
During the seminar, which was organized by Philip H. Abelson, editor emeritus of the AAAS journal, Science, the audience heard talks by molecular biologist Bruce Ames; cancer researcher Steven Rosenberg, NIDA director Nora Volkow, geneticist Robert Nussbaum and other researchers, who described innovative technologies that show promise in delaying the diseases of aging, and in diagnosing and treating cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disease.
Keynote speaker Thomas Cech, who is also President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, described the institute's new efforts to build a multi-disciplinary research community that will incorporate the features of "big science," such as the work on the human genome and on microarrays for a large scale proteome project, and "small science," which he explained in terms of research into such questions as what impact the shape and folding of proteins might have on sequence specificity and cell function.
Cech, recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said that developing a "balanced portfolio" of big science and small science would be the goal of a new research facility HHMI is building on a 281-acre campus it has purchased along the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Responding to a question regarding whether the Institute would collaborate with industry in its research enterprise, Cech said that HHMI insists that researchers avoid all conflicts of interest and that their findings be accessible to the research community at large.
"We may have to develop parallel technologies because we want to make sure that things are widely available," he said.
15 October 2003
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