Monday, April 26, 2010

Obama disappoints with picks for bioethics panel

IPBiz almost fell off its chair reading the headline in Science of the article titled "Obama Picks Pragmatists for New Bioethics Panel," which included as a second sentence

The 12-member group, selected more for practical advice than for philosophizing, as the last one was prone to, will hold its first meeting in Washington, DC in July." [see 328 Science 291 (16 April 2010)]

One notes that 8 of the 12 members are academics [of the others, one is Muhammad Ali's wife, one is with Homeland Security, one is NIH, and one is Walter Reed.] But for Ali's wife, the members are all academics or government, hardly good locations for finding pragmatists.

One suspects the issue is politics, not pragmatism. Science quoted Robert George of Princeton: "I don't like the politics of most of them, but the records of achievement are great."

There are two lawyers among the 12, with each of the lawyers having a Ph.D. in, you guessed it -- philosophy. Anita Allen, of UPenn (like commission chairman Amy Gutmann and like foggy IP prof Polk Wagner), has an interesting distinction on her wikipedia entry: She is the first African American woman in history to hold both a J.D. and Ph.D. in philosophy.
Nita A. Farahany of Vanderbilt is the other lawyer, and holds JD and PhD degrees from Duke. An entry on her Vanderbilt page notes: In her current research, she uses biosciences to study agency and responsibility theory, and to challenge existing interpretations of the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, not exactly the stuff of stem cell debates.

So, these selections look like "politics as usual," with liberal people replacing conservative people, all selected from among clueless academics. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

**The cover of the May 2010 issue of Scientific American states "From your cells to stem cells. New cures may come from 'reprogramming' any adult cell." The author Konrad Hochedlinger talked about Shinya Yamanaka's groundbreaking study published in August 2006 on induced pluripotent stem cells. [referring to 126 Cell 663 (online Aug 10, 2006)]

Konrad writes "So stem cell scientists were surprised and a little bit skeptical of the Japanese group's results at first. But that morning in the lab, I could see firsthand the results of following Yamanaka's recipe."

Konrad notes that the first commercially marketed product from human iPSCs is a heart cell line called iCell Cardiomyocytes.

Konrad does not mention the Bayer patent applications that preceded Yamanaka's work. Konrad does cite a paper in Nature Reviews Genetics, the journal which housed Sticklen's now retracted paper.

[Scientific American, pages 46-53 (May 2010)]


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