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Paul Berg, pioneer in gene splicing who led way for biotech, dies at 96



Paul Berg, a Nobel laureate biochemist whose breakthrough in splicing DNA molecules helped place the foundations for the biotech industry, but who was once so concerned about possible risks from manipulating genes that he asked scientists to allow government oversight, died Feb. 15 at his home on the Stanford University campus in California. He was 96.

Stanford announced the death in a statement. No cause was given.

Dr. Berg’s question – as he and other scientists in the 1950s and ’60s learned more about the double-helix structure of DNA – was whether it was possible to transfer, from one organism to another, bits of genetic information. Success would give biologists and medical researchers an entirely new tool kit, once considered only the realm of science fiction stories about cloning.

In 1972, he gave the answer. Dr. Berg published a paper in a scientific journal that revealed he had mixed DNA from E. coli bacteria and a virus, SV40, linked to tumors in monkeys and transmissible to humans. An uproar followed.


Medical ethicists questioned whether Dr. Berg was toying with the natural order by creating what became known as recombinant DNA. Public health officials and others wondered if swapping DNA could create new plagues or unleash environmental catastrophes. “Is this the answer to Dr. Frankenstein’s dream?” later asked Alfred Vellucci, the mayor of Cambridge, Mass., home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Berg, too, had worries. He paused his experiments with SV40 and E. coli, uneasy over intersplicing the DNA of a disease-causing virus and a common intestinal bacteria.

A 1974 letter Dr. Berg signed with 10 colleagues, published in the journal Science, noted “serious concern that some of these artificial recombinant DNA molecules could prove biologically hazardous.” The letter called for an international meeting of the scientific community to “deal with the potential biohazards of recombinant DNA molecules.”

The gathering took place in a former chapel in Pacific Grove, Calif., in February 1975 with more than 140 scientists from around the world. They agreed to a general set of principles that included limits on the types of genes used and safeguards to keep recombinant DNA confined to laboratories. The guidelines reached at the Asilomar Conference Center were adopted in 1976 by the National Institutes of Health and similar oversight groups in other countries.

Many of the ground rules set by the conference have been revised or dropped as researchers developed greater understanding of genetics. Yet in hindsight, the worst-case thinking of the early years was merited, many researchers say.

“We had to be terribly cautious,” George Rathmann, the former chief executive of the biotech firm Amgen, said in 2005. “You can’t put these things back in a bottle.”

Other participants, however, described Dr. Berg and others as overstating the possible risks from the gene-splicing discoveries.

“It was a reflection of the Vietnam era and earlier history,” Waclaw Szybalski, then a professor and geneticist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told Science News in 1985. “Physicists were guilty of the atomic bomb, and chemists were guilty of napalm. Biologists were trying very hard to be guilty of something.”

Dr. Berg stood by his caution at the time. “I couldn’t say there was zero risk,” he recalled several years after being awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1980. He shared the prize with two other genetic researchers, Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger.

The Nobel Committee noted how Dr. Berg’s pioneering experiment in transplanting DNA molecules “has resulted in the development of a new technology, often called genetic engineering or gene manipulation.”

That also brought major commercial opportunities for what became the biotech industry, ranging from genetically modified crops to hundreds of drugs and therapies. The early products in the 1980s included vaccines for types of hepatitis and insulin. Previously, insulin from animals such as cattle and pigs were used in human treatment.

Recombinant DNA has been used in monoclonal antibodies that can be used as part of covid treatment, and in the latest coronavirus vaccine, Novavax, which was given emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year.

In gene therapy, researchers are exploring ways to use CRISPR-based technology – essentially genetic scissors that can insert, repair or edit genes – for conditions caused by genetic mutations such as cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Huntington’s disease.

Dr. Berg did not patent his findings, allowing pharmaceutical companies and other researchers to advance his work.

“You did science,” he said, “because you loved it.”

– – –

Science club beginnings

Paul Berg was born June 30, 1926, in Brooklyn as one of three sons of a father who worked in clothing manufacturing and a mother who was a homemaker. In high school, his interest in research was first kindled by a woman named Sophie Wolfe, who ran the science club after classes, he recounted.

During World War II, he tried to enlist at 17 to become a Navy aviator but was turned down because of his age. He later did preliminary flight training while studying at Pennsylvania State University. He was called up during the war and served on ships in the Atlantic and Pacific. Dr. Berg graduated in 1948 from Penn State, and received his doctorate from Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) in 1952.

Dr. Berg did postdoctoral work in cancer research and was an assistant professor of microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine from 1955 to 1959, when he accepted a position at Stanford’s medical school.

In the early 1980s he led a campaign that raised more than $50 million to build the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, which opened in 1989. Dr. Berg served as director of the center until 2000.

In 2004, Dr. Berg was one of 20 Nobel laureates who signed an open letter asserting that the administration of President George W. Bush was blocking or distorting scientific evidence to support policy decisions. The letter cited omissions of climate change data or decisions to ignore scientific analysis that questioned White House claims over Iraq’s weapons capabilities before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Dr. Berg married Mildred Levy in 1947; she died in 2021. Survivors include a son, John.

Dr. Berg gave another contribution to molecular biology: the lingo. A recurring joke in research circles refers to the moment of the gene-splicing discovery. Anything before that is “B.C.,” before cloning.



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Media Advisory – Minister Champagne to announce the Canadian Space Agency astronaut who will fly around the Moon – Canada NewsWire



LONGUEUIL, QC, March 29, 2023 /CNW/ –On Monday, April 3, at 10:00 a.m. CT (11:00 a.m. ET), the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, will join NASA and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) leadership in Houston to announce the names of the astronauts assigned to the Artemis II Moon mission.  

The event will be broadcast on NASA TV and streamed on the CSA’s YouTube channel and Facebook page (with simultaneous interpretation).

Media are also invited to join CSA President Lisa Campbell and the Honourable Marc Garneau, first Canadian to fly to space, at CSA headquarters for this historic event. CSA experts will be on site and available for interviews.


All interview requests for the CSA astronaut assigned to Artemis II and/or CSA leadership and experts, in Canada or in Houston, must be coordinated with the CSA Media Relations Office (information below). Interview requests for Minister Champagne must be coordinated directly with his office.

Canada will make history when a CSA astronaut flies around the Moon as part of Artemis II, the first crewed mission to the Moon since the Apollo missions.

Event at NASA Johnson Space Center – Ellington Field

Monday, April 3, 2023





10:00 a.m. CT

11:00 a.m. ET

Artemis II crew announcement event in Houston

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry


CSA astronaut assigned to Artemis II

Ellington Field – Johnson Space Center

Hwy. 3 and Brantly; 12400 South Brantly Houston, TX 00000

The event will be broadcasted on NASA TV and streamed on the CSA’s YouTube channel and Facebook page

2:10 p.m.


3:10 p.m. ET

Media callback

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry


Members of the media are asked to contact ISED Media Relations at [email protected] to receive the dial-in information.

Event at CSA headquarters

Monday, April 3, 2023





9:50 a.m. CT

10:50 a.m. ET

Artemis II crew announcement event, including NASA live broadcast, at the CSA

Lisa Campbell, CSA President


The Honorable Marc Garneau, retired CSA astronaut

Kumudu Jinadasa
, Program Lead, Astronauts, Life Sciences and Space Medicine

John H. Chapman Space Centre

6767 Route de l’Aéroport

Borough of St-Hubert

Longueuil, Quebec

J3Y 8Y9

More information
Canada’s role in Moon exploration

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SOURCE Canadian Space Agency

For further information: Canadian Space Agency, Media Relations Office, Telephone: 450-926-4370, Website:, Email: [email protected]; Laurie Bouchard, Communications Director, Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, [email protected], +1 343 574 8014; Media Relations, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, [email protected]

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Ice Age Squirrel Found in Canada! » Expat Guide Turkey – Expat Guide Turkey



The remains of an Ice Age squirrel that was mummified to death during hibernation some 30,000 years ago have been found in Canada.

The 30,000-year-old animal found in the Klondike goldfields in 2018 will soon be on display in Whitehorse, Northern Canada.

Yukon paleontologists this week unveiled another unusual find from the gold fields near Dawson City: an Arctic squirrel that curled up and mummified as if it died during hibernation during the Ice Age.


A Squirrel Mummy Found by Yukon Paleontologists at the Gold Field near Dawson City

The Ice Age squirrel was actually found a few years ago, but its announcement is now being made as the government is preparing the dead rodent for display at the Yukon in Whitehorse.

At first glance, this mummified animal looks like nothing more than a dried up pile of brown fur and skin.

Intact Bone Structure Detected Inside the Remains

Yukon government paleontologist Grant Zazula says, “It’s hardly recognizable until you see the tiny hands and claws, a little tail, and then the ears.” says.

“I’m always examining bones and these are very exciting. But when you see a perfectly preserved animal, especially if it’s 30,000 years old and you can see its face, its skin, its fur, it’s really special.”

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Apr 1: Tyrannosaur lips, bald eagles dine on beef, saving the orbital environment and more… –



Quirks and Quarks54:02Tyrannosaur lips, bald eagles dine on beef, saving the orbital environment, how your fingerprints are built and how humans run on electricity

On this week’s episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:


Tyrannosaurus rex had lips covering its terrifying teeth

Quirks and Quarks8:33Tyrannosaurus rex had lips covering its terrifying teeth

Many depictions of the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex show the dinosaur’s huge teeth as constantly exposed in a crocodilian smile. But a new study published in the journal Science concludes that theropod dinosaurs like the T. rex likely had scaly, lizard-like lips that covered their teeth completely when the dinosaur’s mouth was closed. Canadian paleontologist Dr. Thomas Cullen, a professor at Auburn University, and his co-authors analyzed wear patterns on tooth enamel of the dinosaurs, as well as jaw sizes, and compared them to modern-day animals. He said the T. rex mouth would have likely been most similar to that of a Komodo dragon.

Scientists and artists have developed two principal models of predatory dinosaur facial appearances: crocodylian-like lipless jaws or a lizard-like lipped mouth. New data suggests that the latter model, lizard-like lips, applies to most, or all, predatory dinosaur species. (Mark P. Witton)

Eagles are eating cows instead of salmon – and farmers are happy

Quirks and Quarks7:59Eagles are eating cows instead of salmon – and farmers are happy

In the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., bald eagles, which have historically fed on the carcasses of spawning chum salmon, have run short of their traditional food due to climate change and other factors. But a new study in the journal Ecosphere by Ethan Duvall, a PhD student in ecology at Cornell University, indicates the eagles have moved inland and are now scavenging cattle who have died on dairy farms. Farmers, it turns out, are happy with this, as it solves a troubling disposal problem, and because the eagles also displace rodents and other birds that do harm to the farms.

A bald eagle in flight against clouds in the blue sky
Bald eagles have shifted their diet from chum salmon carcasses to the carcasses of dairy cows in the northwestern U.S. (NICK BALACHANOFFF)

Inspired by the High Seas treaty, scientists are calling for the protection of space

Quirks and Quarks7:47Inspired by the High Seas treaty, scientists are calling for the protection of space

In early March, nearly 200 United Nations member countries agreed to the first-ever treaty to protect the world’s oceans. Imogen Napper, a marine biologist at the University of Plymouth in England, and a group of colleagues are calling for a similar legally binding treaty to protect the Earth’s orbit from exploitation by the ever-growing global space industry. Their concerns were put forward in a letter in the journal Science.

A woman looks up into a starry sky with a beam of light coming from her headband light
Marine biologist Imogen Napper has turned her attention from ocean plastic pollution to protecting the Earth’s orbit from space debris. (Eleanor Burfit)

Arches, loops and whorls — how your unique fingerprints are made

Quirks and Quarks7:40Arches, loops and whorls — how your unique fingerprints are made

There are eight billion people in the world, each with a unique pattern of ridges on our fingertips. Now, scientists have discovered that the process by which these intricate and complex patterns arise is similar to how animals get their spots or stripes. Duelling genetic and chemical signals during fetal development give rise to changes in the ridges and spaces between them that cover our fingertips. Denis Headon, a geneticist from the University of Edinburgh, traced how this interplay results in the complex whorls, loops and arches that make up our fingerprints. His research was published in the journal Cell.

A computer monitor on a black desk in an ambiently lit room has a giant fingerprint blown up on it taking up the entire screen.
A fingerprint is enlarged for examination at the US Homeland Security Investigation Forensic Laboratory in Tyson Corner, Virginia. A new study describes how our fingerprints get their unique patterns. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Humans are fueled by food — but we run on electricity

Quirks and Quarks19:31Humans are fueled by food — but we run on electricity

Every living cell works as a battery, with the ability to respond to and send out electrical signals. Science and technology journalist, Sally Adee, became fascinated with this realization after participating in an experiment in which a gentle electrical current, delivered to her brain, gave her the abilities of an expert sharpshooter. Bob McDonald speaks with her about her new book, We Are Electric: Inside the 200-Year Hunt for Our Body’s Bioelectric Code, and What the Future Holds. In it, she explores how much our biology — from our bodies’ ability to heal to the higher order processes of human thought — works through electricity.

Someone's hand can be seen holding a multitude of colourful wires emanating from the electrodes in a cap that he's wearing as he sits inside a makeshift cockpit.
A man holds electrodes set up on the head of Swiss scientist-adventurer and pilot Bertrand Piccard that will monitor his electrical brain waves prior to a non-stop 72 hours simulation test flight in 2013. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

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