Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hotz gets it wrong on stem cell research

In a piece titled Stem Cells' New Sugar Daddy, WSJ's ROBERT LEE HOTZ manifests total confusion in the stem cell area.

Of the trivial --> "Serendipity plays such a big role in science, always has," Dr. Trounson says. "I'd rather not pick winners at this stage. Some things are going to happen that, I think, are going to be astonishing. Some things will come out as real disappointments."

Of the wrong --> Until now, intensive drives like the war on cancer and the Human Genome Project were efforts that only the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies could afford. In California, though, this intellectual infrastructure is being funded just like a new highway bridge or harbor improvements, with 30-year general obligation bonds.

Hmmm, wasn't there a private effort in genome sequencing that finished about the same time as the public one?
[Remember Venter and Celera? Private entities could afford to work in the area, counter to Hotz's ipse dixit.]

And, Hotz seems to be "out to lunch" on the taxable bond issue. Prop. 71 is NOT funded like "highway bridge improvements".
If the issue is not resolved, taxable bonds will about double the cost to California taxpayers. Hotz does not mention this, and gives the misleading impression that this financing is just like common tax-free bonding.

Can Hotz say "intellectual property", the origin of the problem? Yes. Later in the article: California can't go it alone in shepherding new stem-cell therapies through clinical trials, Dr. Trounson says. He must harness the commercial skills of pharmaceutical and biotech companies to the discoveries of academic researchers -- all under the eye of a state legislature with its own ideas about intellectual property and profit-sharing. Sadly, Hotz continues WSJ's general confusion on intellectual property.[below]

One also wonders what Hotz was thinking when he wrote: "They don't really like one another. They mix like oil and water," he says of the drug companies and university researchers. "But if this is all going to happen, they will have to be paired. That will be our role. Costs and deals will have to be worked out." One recalls that the recent Supreme court case involving Merck and Integra (drug companies) could just as well have been captioned Scripps v. Burnham (academic places). University researchers and drug companies have been mixing rather well, counter to Hotz.

For some previous goofiness by WSJ


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