Science

Change We Can Believe In, Embryonic Stem Cells Edition

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From The Wall Street Journal:

In a watershed moment for one of the most contentious areas of science and American politics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the first-ever human trial of a medical treatment derived from embryonic stem cells.

Geron Corp., a Menlo Park, Calif., biotechnology company, is expected to announce Friday that it received a green light from the agency to mount a study of its stem-cell treatment for spinal cord injuries in up to 10 patients. The announcement caps more than a decade of advances in the company's labs and comes on the cusp of a widely expected shift in U.S. policy toward support of embryonic stem-cell research after years of official opposition.

"This is the dawn of a new era in medical therapeutics," said Thomas B. Okarma, Geron's president and chief executive officer. The hope that stem-cell therapy will repair and regenerate diseased organs and tissue "goes beyond what pills and scalpels can ever do."

Note: The timing of this is coincidental, says everyone involved, though one key difference between the Bush and Obama administrations is their difference on embryonic stem cell research.

More here.

Reason's Ron Bailey, author of the invaluable Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, has covered this beat like nobody else. Read his book and then pray to whatever god probably doesn't exist that the developments he details so compellingly come in our lifetimes.

And read these stories by him.

NEXT: Friday Funnies

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  1. Coincidental? I doubt it … I believe that the change was approved once the Bible-thumping crowd was officially gone. No doubt pressure from this flat-earth crowd had been applied … and once removed, the scientists were given the green light.

  2. I have to say, Obama is racking up a few good moves here. Let’s hope it continues.

  3. the timing is coincidental…like a fox!

    may great things come of this work.

  4. First, I don’t think Obama had anything to do with this.

    Second, who cares? What’s important here is that, if this works, they can heal severed spinal cords!

  5. joe … good point. However, it is politically noteworthy, ala Reagan and the Iranian hostages.

  6. Are there any libertarians left at Reason? If this research is going to pay off down the road than certainly private money can fund it. I thought Reason was against government meddling in stuff.

  7. Is it government funded? The article just mentions investors and companies, but isn’t clear. If not, what’s the problem?

    And if it is, I still prefer this to 90+% of other government spending (but it should be cut, too).

  8. Unless it’s DOD funded, which I think is reasonable.

  9. “I thought Reason was against government meddling in stuff.”

    hence the “yay, they’re not going to fuck with people for messing with this shit” angle.

  10. James Ard,

    It’s one thing to be ready to do something, as these scientists were clearly prepared for with private money (since we know they weren’t getting any public funds for embryonic stem cell research during Bush’s tenure) and it’s another to be able to go forward without worrying about the Justice Dept raiding your facility if you proceed.

    I agree We the People should not finance this, but I am happy, if my theory is correct, that the political obstacles are removed so private money CAN be used to it’s greatest effect.

  11. And I suppose that the guy’s name being Okarma is coincidental, too.

  12. JA: Geron is a private company. Disclosure: I well know this because I own several hundred shares which I bought with my own money 10 years ago. I’m still underwater with the investment, but we’ll see how it turns out now.

  13. Ron invests for the long haul. That’s why he invested in Skynet.

  14. Good news to start off my weekend. I do find it hard to believe that approval for the trial* is a coincidence. It’s more likely the grand poobahs in government regulation** start realizing the likelihood of executive support months ago and started the ball rolling then.
    IOW, I’ll give most of the credit to Obama for this.

    *It’s an experiment on people but nobody wants to say that.

    ** With nary a nobel prize amongst them, they somehow devine the most promising lines of research.

  15. Apparently, the server squirrels have somehow made their way back into H&R.

    Grrrr!

  16. Is there any evidence that the Bush regulators were hampering private experimentation? I’d think the Bush haters would have been raising hell if that was the case.

  17. Was anyone prohibited from engaging in privately funded embryonic stem cell research under Bush? I thought it was just an embargo on federal funding.

  18. Yeah sure, the Constitution doesn’t authorize the use of federal funds for this research…but it pisses off religious conservatives, and that’s change our resident cosmotarians can believe in!

    Perhaps someday I’ll understand how Bailey and now Gillespie can offer full-throated support for federal funding of ESCR. Until then I’m continuing to make fun of their hypocrisy.

  19. Was anyone prohibited from engaging in privately funded embryonic stem cell research under Bush? I thought it was just an embargo on federal funding.

    The point has been made that Bush would use the FDA to crush private innovative applications dependent on ESCR.

    The GOP was testing state bans on ESCR – don’t you remember Missouri and the initiative Michael J. Fox fought in 2006?

    Don’t pretend the GOP fetus fetish was make-believe all this time.

  20. Was anyone prohibited from engaging in privately funded embryonic stem cell research under Bush? I thought it was just an embargo on federal funding.

    The ban on federal funding for this research made it impossible to use federally funded staff and equipment for it.

    So, if a lab got a grant five years ago to buy beakers, and used those beakers for this research, they’d be in violation of Bush’s funding ban.

  21. What’s next, a post commending Obama for allowing federal funds for abortions in Africa?

  22. Don’t pretend the GOP fetus fetish was make-believe all this time.

    I don’t think we should kill innocent Eskimos, either. Does that mean I have an Eskimo fetish as well?

  23. What’s next, a post commending Obama for allowing federal funds for abortions in Africa?

    Since, that, oddly, was one of his very first actions as President, it was commented on a few days ago.

    It says something, not sure what, that Obama could fire off an order immediately for funding family planning in other countries with American tax dollars, but can’t seem to manage an order suspending federal medical marijuana raids. Because it takes so long to get the phones hooked up, or something.

  24. Oh, give me a break! He takes unprecented action with unprecedented speed on a number of very significant issues – issuing executive orders on the first and second day of his adminstration – so now solving problems on the first or second day of his adminstration becomes the baseline?

  25. I don’t think we should kill innocent Eskimos, either. Does that mean I have an Eskimo fetish as well?

    If millions of you repeatedly chanted in unison regarding the use of legally obtained Eskimo cells to cure disease then I would say that you definitely have an Eskimo fetish.

  26. If Barack Obama leads a successful charge to repeal the CSA entirely in February 2010, certain people on these boards are going to write “Why didn’t he do it sooner?”

  27. Yea joe, he issued some executive orders. Too bad your boy wonder couldn’t actually remember what they were, so he had to ask one of his handlers what was in them. Confirming my suspicions just 48 hours in.

  28. legally obtained Eskimo cells

    And shrike holds his hand out and says, “can you spare some change for an old polemicist?” as the question walks by.

  29. joe @12:52,

    It does tell us something about his priorities, though, doesn’t it? Can’t help cancer patients yet — Planned Parenthood has African fetuses to dismember!

  30. James Ard,

    Your tears are so yummy and sweet.

    Little tip: lay off the “boy” there, chief.

  31. Tears, hell! this is going to be fun. Especially if the press ignores it for long enough to totally demolish what credibility they have left. And boy refers to his youth, not skin color. Good thing I changed “bosses” to “handlers” or I’d really be in trouble.

  32. I’m still missing the role allegedly played by federal funds here. The story is about the FDA finally allowing a private company to do human trials. If you think there are subsidies involved as well, please cite a source.

    I get the impression that some people are so used to debating how libertarians should react to restrictions on federally financed research, they trot out the same old arguments without bothering to check if that’s the issue being discussed.

  33. Tears, hell! this is going to be fun.

    If “this” means the complete repudiation of your political philosophy, the realignment of a country behind your opponents, and the adoption of policies you find anathema by people you repeatedly try and fail to defeat, then yes, this is going to be a lot fun.

  34. My bad, Jesse. I should wait for the future post that lauds the federal funding. Dream on, joe, dream on.

  35. Huh? Bush banned *public* funding of embryonic research, private research still continued. Unless this is publicly funded then there is no Change?.

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