On August 16th, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy reports that President Obama has announced up to $510 million will be invested, with private sector partnership, during the next three years into biofuels. Excerpt from EERE progress alert:

President Obama Announces Major Initiative to Spur Biofuels Industry and Enhance America’s Energy Security

President Obama today announced that the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Navy will invest up to $510 million during the next three years in partnership with the private sector to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. The initiative responds to a directive from President Obama issued in March as part of his Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future, the administration’s framework for reducing dependence on foreign oil. The biofuels initiative is being steered by the White House Biofuels Interagency Work Group and Rural Council, both of which are enabling greater cross-agency collaboration to strengthen rural America.

For the full report, click here.

As discussed at previous Board of Directors and Senior Editors meetings, in August 2010 our citation index had fallen to an IF of 1.798 and we were listed as 81/150. In 2009 we were at 1.919 and 72/144. To remedy this problem the Senior Editors:

  • • endorsed adding more reviews, particularly mini-reviews (done, mainly through the efforts of Dick Baltz, JIMB Reviews Editor);
  • • expanded our Senior Editor Board (we added four and now have 13 Senior Editors, representing seven countries, with expertise in areas where we were lacking and we are more international in structure);
  • • expanded our Editorial Board (we now have 86 members; members are more likely to submit their work to JIMB and provide more expert reviewers).

As a result of these efforts, the JIMB IF for 2010 has risen to 2.416 and we are number 63/164 journals. This represents 4326 citations. Perhaps more interesting, we are 63/164 —>38.4% of the top journals in our group. In 2009 we were 81/150 or 54% and in 2008, 72/144 or 50%. We are moving in the right direction and will continue to do so!

Summarizing the first six months of 2011 we processed 421 manuscripts, three of which came from 33rd Symposium on Fuels and Chemicals. This compares to 456 for the first six months of 2010, 44 of which came from the 32nd Symposium on Fuels and Chemicals. Thus, manuscript flow is similar to 2010. For 2011, of the 421 manuscripts action (accept, revise or reject) has been taken on 391: 59 (15.1%) have been accepted or are in revision; 332 (84.9%) have been rejected. Our rejection rate for 2010 was about 75%.  Again, we continue to move in the right direction as the quality of published manuscripts and reviews continue to improve.

Robert (Bob) D. Schwartz
Editor-in-Chief,
JIMB

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8/4/11 Merck Donates Natural Product Library

by Neal Connors

In June, Merck (Whitehouse Station, NJ) donated its natural products library to the Institute for Hepatitis and Virus Research (Doylestown, PA) along with a grant. The library is one of the more diverse in the world and consists of over 100,000 extracts. While I am not familiar with all the details of the arrangement, I do understand that the collection will be available to researchers around the world.

This should come as no surprise since the company stopped screening for natural product drugs a few years ago and shut down its discovery operation in Madrid (which exists independently as Fundacion MEDINA). Nevertheless, as a former Merck employee, it is like watching your childhood home get sold. At one point natural products were a big chunk of Merck’s revenue with Mevacor/Zocor being the flag-bearer.

Now it is up to several academic labs and small companies to keep “the dream alive.” Enabling technologies have advanced to the point that isolation and structural elucidation of natural products are no longer “warts.” While small research groups have done some wonderful things with natural products, they do not always have the biological targets to screen against that big pharma does.

I once read that natural product drugs were like aliens – you know they are out there but you just do not know where to find them. This could probably be said about drug discovery and development in general.

About Neal Connors
Dr. Neal Connors is currently the owner/president of Phoenix BioConsulting, LLC (www.phoenixbioconsulting.com); a company providing consulting services to the fermentation, industrial microbiology, biotechnology, and legal sectors.

I read in Fierce Biotech’s April 6, 2011 e-newsletter that an FDA advisory committee has recommended approval of San Diego-based Optimer Pharmaceutical’s fidaxomicin, a narrow spectrum antibacterial for the treatment of Clostridium difficile infections. C. difficile is responsible for 20% of antibiotic-associated diarrhea cases in hospitals.

Full FDA approval of a drug usually follows a positive review from its advisory committees. Approval of any new antibiotic is welcome news given the increase in resistant pathogens. However as a natural product “geek”, I was thrilled to learn that fidaxomicin is a natural product produced by fermentation of Dactylosporangium aurantiacum subspecies hamdenesis. Read the rest of this entry »

Sheraton New OrleansSIM’s Annual Meeting typically draws an audience of over 700 attendees. The theme for 2011 is “Emerging Frontiers in Industrial Microbiology.” It is an excellent opportunity to present your work and meet with members of the SIM and other colleagues from academia, industry, and government organizations. The conference also represents an excellent venue for student presentations and provides a wide range of networking opportunities.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting in New Orleans!

For updates on the meeting, look for #simam11.