Newsletter digest: DNA forensic pioneer, LCT’s govt funding and climate science’s future

DNA Pioneer in SMC briefing

As New Zealand forensic scientists prepare to mark 20 years of DNA testing in New Zealand the Science Media Centre is pleased to host an online briefing for journalists featuring one of the founding fathers of DNA forensics, Dr Peter Gill. As this Times article explains, Dr Gill was part of a team of British scientists at the UK Government’s Forensic Science Service who in 1986 used ground-breaking DNA profiling techniques to help identify and convict a double murderer and exonerate the prime suspect in the case.

The success of DNA profiling saw the British Government in 1995 establish a DNA database that contains frozen DNA samples from people convicted of serious crimes and in some cases those who are arrested on suspicion of a “recordable offense”, a move that has been mirrored by governments around the world. New Zealand has its own DNA database and last year the Government announced increased powers for the police to gather DNA samples from suspects.

Dr Gill will discuss the advances in DNA forensics so far and where the science is progressing. He will also be joined by ESR scientist Sally Ann Harbison who will outline how use of DNA forensics has evolved in New Zealand and what the expanded police powers could mean for DNA sampling.

Journalists can dial in to the briefing by phone and watch presentations on the web. Those on the SMC’s registered journalists list will receive details of how to log into the briefing on Monday. For any other queries contact the SMC office.

Briefing for journalists:
Where: Phone and online
When: Tuesday 16 Feb, 3pm

Govt funding for pig cell treatment

After winning approval to undertake xenotransplantation trials with a small number of diabetes sufferers in New Zealand, Auckland-based and ASX-listed company Living Cell Technologies has been granted $4 million in funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology for the trials and to commercialise the treatment.

An SMC briefing last year featured a panel of scientists including LCT’s Professor Bob Elliot discussing the science behind the trials, the results of which have yet to be published, but which have shown early signs of success for those receiving the treatment.

Which way forward for climate science?

Senior climate scientists take a hard look at the role of the IPCC and the future of climate science in the journal Nature this week, with Victoria University’s Professor Martin Manning among a group of authors of one paper that has been in the works for some time and looks at the directions climate research could take.

Meanwhile, the University of East Anglia has commissioned an independent enquiry into the leaking of the climategate emails and the contents of them which will be lead by Sir Muir Russell a former senior civil servant and university vice chancellor.

Our colleagues at the SMC in London wrapped up reaction from scientists to the news of the inquiry.