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The Yearbook

Our list of newsmakers this year includes some standout personalities, from a price-hiking, former hedge fund manager to a persistent and now-well-recognized immunotherapy advocate.

Thomas Insel: Most likely to be googled

Thomas Insel, who led the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for 13 years, announced in September that he plans to step down from his post in November. He will go on to join the Google Life Sciences division of Google's parent company, Alphabet. Under Insel's leadership, the NIMH increased its focus on autism research and basic biological research into psychological disorders. As part of his new position, he will work on the development of innovative tools, such as wearable devices, to monitor mental health. Bruce Cuthbert, the director of the NIMH's division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development, has been named acting director of the institute in Insel's stead.

Credit: National Institute of Mental Health

Nikos Logothetis: Least likely to monkey around

A neuroscientist who studies object recognition and perception, Nikos Logothetis announced in May that he will no longer use nonhuman primates in his research, after animal rights activists raised claims that his lab mistreats animals. He has stated that footage filmed by an undercover activist caregiver is inaccurate and that the stress behaviors seen in the video are rare or were induced by the caregiver. Logothetis, a department director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, wrote a letter to his fellow nonhuman primate researchers listing the reasons behind his decision to conclude his research; going forward, he stated, he would use rodents to study neural networks.

Credit: Nikos Logothetis

Oliver Sacks: Most-missed case historian

Known for writing about unusual cases of brain disorders, Oliver Sacks, a neurologist at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, died in August of melanoma of the eye. He was renowned not only for his work as a physician, but also for his pioneering efforts to study the relationship between music and the brain—work that led others to establish the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York. Sacks gained wide acclaim for his books and articles, which often took the form of case histories of new and remarkable conditions that he observed in his patients; he was widely regarded for his ability to illustrate the complexities of such cases.

Credit: Daily Mail/Rex / Alamy Stock Photo

James Allison: Most likely to say 'I told you so'

James Allison, an immunologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, was among the recipients of this year's Lasker Awards for his work on cancer immunotherapy. A pioneer in the field, Allison has spent much of the past two decades trying to convince his colleagues that blocking CTLA-4, a protein that inhibits T cell activation in the immune system, would free T cells to fight cancer cells. Because this approach manipulates the immune system without directly killing tumor cells, many people in the field have been skeptical of immunotherapy's feasibility. Allison also received the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize in 2015 and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2013.

Credit: dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo

Tim Hunt: Most distracting comments

Nobel laureate Tim Hunt caused a stir in June over sexist comments that he made about the “trouble with girls” in science. Speaking at a conference, Hunt alleged that women “cry” when criticized, as well as “fall in love” with their male peers in labs, which results in distractions that are “disruptive” to doing scientific work. The controversy resulted in Hunt's resignation from University College London, where he held an honorary position. Hunt apologized for his comments, but added that he meant them to be “honest.”

Credit: dpa picture alliance archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Nina Pham: Most likely to fight back

Nina Pham, a nurse who helped to treat the first person in the US to contract Ebola and consequently also fell ill, launched a lawsuit against her employer, Texas Health Presbyterian, in March. Pham claims that she was used as a public relations tool, and in the process, had her privacy violated. She also alleges that the hospital was not properly equipped to fight Ebola, and that as a result, it failed to provide her with the training she needed to treat people with the disease. The hospital denies the charges, saying that Pham's case is one of workers' compensation and does not fall under the jurisdiction of a civil court. As of October, the suit was still progressing through the Dallas legal system.

Credit: Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo

Martin Shkreli: Most likely to ponder pricing

Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, became infamous in September after his company raised the price of the antiparasitic drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine), which it had acquired from Impax Laboratories, from $13.50 to $750 per pill—an increase of more than 5,000%. The move caused uproar on social media, earning Shkreli wide derision for the company's decision. A former hedge fund manager, Shkreli defended the price increase by claiming that profits from the sale will aid the company's preclinical research efforts. In the wake of the backlash, however, the company announced that it would lower Daraprim's price, although as Nature Medicine went to press, the firm had not yet announced what the price will be.

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Chakradhar, S. The Yearbook. Nat Med 21, 1379 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm1215-1379

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