Timeline of events... a brief history of the important news stories this month

May 17

The faculty at Stanford University reject a ban on the use of research money from the tobacco industry, a policy previously adopted by Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University.

May 18

The first results from an eight-year US National Institutes of Health imaging study of 500 healthy children show that most cognitive and motor skills are fully developed by age 12 (J. Int. Neuropsychol. Soc. 13, 1–18).

May 19

Gardasil, Merck's cervical cancer vaccine, prevents 99% of human papillomavirus infections in women who have never had sex but only 44% of infections in those who have had fewer than five sexual partners, researchers say (Lancet 369, 1693–1702).

May 22

The US National Institutes of Health announces that, because of budget constraints, it will no longer breed chimpanzees for research, a move condemned by researchers who use the animals in their studies.

May 22

The Canadian government launches CARTaGENE, a $30 million 'biobank' that will collect blood and urine samples from 50,000 Canadians and make them available to researchers studying the genetic determinants of disease.

May 23

Member states of the World Health Assembly agree to share their samples of influenza viruses, vital to vaccine development, in exchange for fair and affordable vaccine distribution in the event of a pandemic (Nat. Med. 13, 225).

May 24

Aspirin prevents colon cancer by blocking the inflammation-inducing enzyme COX-2, according to results from 130,000 study participants, including more than 80,000 enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study (N. Engl. J. Med. 356, 2131–2142).

May 25

Exposure to marijuana can affect the connections between fetal brain cells, perhaps explaining why women who smoke during pregnancy can have children with cognitive problems (Science doi:10.1126/science.316.5828.1093h).

May 27

An international study of nearly 50,000 women finds that 64% of women carry at least one of four new genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (Nature doi:10.1038/nature05887).

May 28

Premenopausal women who consumed more than 948 units of vitamin D daily were 30% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who consumed less than half that amount (Arch. Intern. Med. 167, 1050–1059; Nat. Med. 13, 396–397).

May 29

For the first time in 44 years, the US forcibly quarantines a man infected with a strain of tuberculosis resistant to most available drugs, saying he risked the health of passengers on two commercial flights.

May 30

President Bush urges Congress to commit $30 billion to extend the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) five years past its September 2008 end date, a move that would double the plan's funding.

May 30

The World Health Organization calls for opt-out HIV testing for all individuals in HIV-plagued regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, a practice critics say might put people at risk of discrimination and coercive testing.

May 31

James Watson, the 79-year-old Nobel laureate who unraveled DNA structure, receives a pair of DVDs containing a complete map of his genome, among the first of many sequences to be decoded by summer's end.

June 4

Frank Douglas, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Biomedical Innovation, resigns over the institute's refusal to reconsider tenure for his fellow black colleague James Sherley, who alleges he was denied tenure because of race.

June 4

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, which includes representatives from the Journal of the American Medical Association and The New England Journal of Medicine, adopts a policy requiring clinical trials to register with the World Health Organization.

June 4

The US FDA announces plans to appoint a 15-member advisory committee composed of ethicists, journalists, marketing specialists and other experts to help communicate drug safety information to consumers.

June 6

The largest genetic study of common diseases, based on more than 10 billion sequences, finds 24 genetic variants associated with six diseases, including Crohn's disease, hypertension and diabetes (Nature 447, 661–678).

June 7

Results of a new survey, expected to be formally released in July, suggest that India has fewer than three million cases of HIV/AIDS, far fewer than the UN estimate of 5.7 million, the New York Times reports.

June 8

The G8 group of industrialized nations pledges $60 billion, half of which will come from the US, to fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases in Africa, an amount many AIDS organizations say falls far short of what's needed.

June 13

The US should withhold approval for rimonabant, Sanofi-Aventis's much-hyped weight loss drug, because it appears to increase the risk of depression, anxiety and sleep problems, an FDA advisory panel says.

June 13

Cleaning up the environment could prevent 13 million deaths each year, the World Health Organization says in its first country-by-country analysis of the link between the environment and health.

June 14

Much of the genetic material found between genes, so-called 'junk DNA', regulates gene expression and potentially causes disease, say scientists who sifted through 30 million DNA base pairs (Nature 447, 799–816).

June 14

Scientists retract a single figure from a controversial 2002 study that suggested that adult stem cells can form many types of tissue, but say the mistake does not affect the paper's conclusions (Nature 447, 880–881).