Bushies trying to subvert science education

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Bushies trying to subvert science education

Post by RebLem » Fri Aug 25, 2006 4:44 am

August 24, 2006 | New York Times

Evolution Major Vanishes From Approved Federal List

by Cornelia Dean

Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students.

The omission is inadvertent, said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, which administers the grants. “There is no explanation for it being left off the list,” Ms. McLane said. “It has always been an eligible major.”

Another spokeswoman, Samara Yudof, said evolutionary biology would be restored to the list, but as of last night it was still missing.

If a major is not on the list, students in that major cannot get grants unless they declare another major, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Mr. Nassirian said students seeking the grants went first to their college registrar, who determined whether they were full-time students majoring in an eligible field.

“If a field is missing, that student would not even get into the process,” he said.

That the omission occurred at all is worrying scientists concerned about threats to the teaching of evolution.

One of them, Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University, said he learned about it from someone at the Department of Education, who got in touch with him after his essay on the necessity of teaching evolution appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 15. Dr. Krauss would not name his source, who he said was concerned about being publicly identified as having drawn attention to the matter.

An article about the issue was posted Tuesday on the Web site of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dr. Krauss said the omission would be “of great concern” if evolutionary biology had been singled out for removal, or if the change had been made without consulting with experts on biology. The grants are awarded under the National Smart Grant program, established this year by Congress. (Smart stands for Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent.)

The program provides $4,000 grants to third- or fourth-year, low-income students majoring in physical, life or computer sciences; mathematics; technology; engineering; or foreign languages deemed “critical” to national security.

The list of eligible majors (which is online at ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN0606A.pdf) is drawn from the Education Department’s “Classification of Instructional Programs,” or CIP (pronounced “sip”), a voluminous and detailed classification of courses of study, arranged in a numbered system of sections and subsections.

Part 26, biological and biomedical sciences, has a number of sections, each of which has one or more subsections. Subsection 13 is ecology, evolution, systematics and population biology. This subsection itself has 10 sub-subsections. One of them is 26.1303 — evolutionary biology, “the scientific study of the genetic, developmental, functional, and morphological patterns and processes, and theoretical principles; and the emergence and mutation of organisms over time.”

Though references to evolution appear in listings of other fields of biological study, the evolutionary biology sub-subsection is missing from a list of “fields of study” on the National Smart Grant list — there is an empty space between line 26.1302 (marine biology and biological oceanography) and line 26.1304 (aquatic biology/limnology).

Students cannot simply list something else on an application form, said Mr. Nassirian of the registrars’ association. “Your declared major maps to a CIP code,” he said.

Mr. Nassirian said people at the Education Department had described the omission as “a clerical mistake.” But it is “odd,” he said, because applying the subject codes “is a fairly mechanical task. It is not supposed to be the subject of any kind of deliberation.”

“I am not at all certain that the omission of this particular major is unintentional,” he added. “But I have to take them at their word.”

Scientists who knew about the omission also said they found the clerical explanation unconvincing, given the furor over challenges by the religious right to the teaching of evolution in public schools. “It’s just awfully coincidental,” said Steven W. Rissing, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio State University.

Jeremy Gunn, who directs the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that if the change was not immediately reversed “we will certainly pursue this.”

Dr. Rissing said removing evolutionary biology from the list of acceptable majors would discourage students who needed the grants from pursuing the field, at a time when studies of how genes act and evolve are producing valuable insights into human health.

“This is not just some kind of nicety,” he said. “We are doing a terrible disservice to our students if this is yet another example of making sure science doesn’t offend anyone.”

Dr. Krauss of Case Western said he did not know what practical issues would arise from the omission of evolutionary biology from the list, given that students would still be eligible for grants if they declared a major in something else — biology, say.

“I am sure an enterprising student or program director could find a way to put themselves in another slot,” he said. “But why should they have to do that?”

Mr. Nassirian said he was not so sure. “Candidly, I don’t think most administrators know enough about this program” to help students overcome the apparent objection to evolutionary biology, he said. Undergraduates would be even less knowledgeable about the issue, he added.

Dr. Krauss said: “Removing that one major is not going to make the nation stupid, but if this really was removed, specifically removed, then I see it as part of a pattern to put ideology over knowledge. And, especially in the Department of Education, that should be abhorred.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/24/washi ... nted=print
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Post by Ralph » Fri Aug 25, 2006 7:35 am

And American education sinks lower.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 8:49 am

This may, as the article implied, have been incidental, but whether it is or not, the politicization of policy in the interests of the religious right is nothing new, up to and including not funding abortions in areas where the government funds all other medical care (e.g., the armed forces). And then of course there's the stem cell snafu. That's not evolutionary biology, but one can see a framily resemblance.

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Post by Barry » Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:43 am

Sickening if it was intentional. But if it doesn't get restored as an acceptible major before Bush leaves office, I'm confident it will be restored during the next administration.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:47 am

Barry Z wrote:Sickening if it was intentional. But if it doesn't get restored as an acceptible major before Bush leaves office, I'm confident it will be restored during the next administration.
If the next administration resembles the (first) Clinton administration, they won't fill enough political appointments to get anything done at all.

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Re: Bushies trying to subvert science education

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:22 am

RebLem wrote:August 24, 2006 | New York Times

Evolution Major Vanishes From Approved Federal List

by Cornelia Dean

Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students.

The omission is inadvertent, said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, which administers the grants. “There is no explanation for it being left off the list,” Ms. McLane said. “It has always been an eligible major.”
All this noise over a clerical error? How like Al Jazeera West!
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Post by RebLem » Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:55 am

jbuck919 wrote:This may, as the article implied, have been incidental, but whether it is or not, the politicization of policy in the interests of the religious right is nothing new, up to and including not funding abortions in areas where the government funds all other medical care (e.g., the armed forces). And then of course there's the stem cell snafu. That's not evolutionary biology, but one can see a framily resemblance.
Well, now, here is a point where I really do question the usual liberal assumptions--on the matter of stem cell research. The bio-engineering industry says it is being scrupulously ethical, and liberals do so want to believe them. Meanwhile, we rightly accuse Big Pharma of pushing for premature approval of iffy drugs, and phonying up test results as the Bush Administration pushes for getting new drugs on the market--they say to help patients, but really to inflate industry profits.

I have news for you, folks. Its pretty much the same industry. Why should it be a liberal article of faith that one group of scientists is cutting corners in the search for profits for their masters, but the other is scrupuloulsy ethical and upright and needs little governmental oversight to keep them on the up and up?

I'm not buying it.

But, Corlyss, you need to appreciate the subtext here. On the one hand, you have an Administration telling the science-denying churches that they are on their side, and on the other, telling the science community that they are on theirs, even though they cannot be on both. They are talking out of both sides of their mealy little mouths. They love us all, but don't want to hug the tar baby.

Meanwhile, some True Believer in the Dept. of Education (a dept they said they were going to do away with, btw), whose identity has yet to be revealed, decides he's gonna put a wrench in the machinery and delete evolutionary biology from the list of courses of study for which poor students can get student loans. Then everybody else runs around shouting from the rooftops, "No, dammit, we didn't mean it, We really are hypocrites. Yeah, we're telling the Rev Dobson that we're against evolution, but we don't really mean it. We're just playing him along. And frankly, we are shocked that you are so cynical and won't believe us."

Why should we believe them?
Last edited by RebLem on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:05 pm

RebLem wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:This may, as the article implied, have been incidental, but whether it is or not, the politicization of policy in the interests of the religious right is nothing new, up to and including not funding abortions in areas where the government funds all other medical care (e.g., the armed forces). And then of course there's the stem cell snafu. That's not evolutionary biology, but one can see a framily resemblance.
Well, now here is a point where I really do question the usual liberal assumptions--on the matter of stem cell research. They say they are being scrupulously ethical, and liberal do so want to believe them. Meanwhile, we rightly accuse Big Pharma of pushing for premature approval of iffy drugs, and phonying up test results as the Bush Administration pushes for getting new drugs on the market--they say to help patients, but really to inflate the profits of Big Pharma.

I have news for you, folks. Its pretty much the same industry. Why should it be a liberal article of faith that one group of scientists is cutting corners in the search for profits for their masters, but the other is scrupuloulsy ethical and upright and needs little governmental oversight to keep them on the up and up?

I'm not buying it.
The current prohibition on stem cell research in the US is almost absolute and entirely politically motivated from the religious right. We don't decide on one policy or another because of the potential for abuse. We decide on the policy and then legislate agains abuses, and then enforce the legislation. That's the way a civilized country under the rule of law works.

If you ask people in general why they might oppose this research (which for all I know might be a chimera in the first place and lead to nothing, but that's beside the point), those who oppose it in general don't say "because it's associated with the big pharms and we all know they're evil," they say "because we're killing little people," which is as wrong as wrong gets.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 25, 2006 1:55 pm

jbuck919 wrote:The current prohibition on stem cell research in the US is almost absolute and entirely politically motivated from the religious right. We don't decide on one policy or another because of the potential for abuse. We decide on the policy and then legislate agains abuses, and then enforce the legislation. That's the way a civilized country under the rule of law works.

If you ask people in general why they might oppose this research (which for all I know might be a chimera in the first place and lead to nothing, but that's beside the point), those who oppose it in general don't say "because it's associated with the big pharms and we all know they're evil," they say "because we're killing little people," which is as wrong as wrong gets.
I agree. People are so caught up in the ethical debate about the research itself that they don't know from big pharma or little pharma. For that kind of debate you have to go to something like the vaccine shortage problem. The vast majority don't even bother with the detail that THERE IS NO BAN on stem cell research. The only thing banned is federal funding of stem cell research on stem cell lines other than the 40 or so Bush approved in 02 or 03.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 25, 2006 1:57 pm

RebLem wrote:don't want to hug the tar baby.
Better watch those racial epithets, Reb. 8)
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:02 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:The current prohibition on stem cell research in the US is almost absolute and entirely politically motivated from the religious right. We don't decide on one policy or another because of the potential for abuse. We decide on the policy and then legislate agains abuses, and then enforce the legislation. That's the way a civilized country under the rule of law works.

If you ask people in general why they might oppose this research (which for all I know might be a chimera in the first place and lead to nothing, but that's beside the point), those who oppose it in general don't say "because it's associated with the big pharms and we all know they're evil," they say "because we're killing little people," which is as wrong as wrong gets.
I agree. People are so caught up in the ethical debate about the research itself that they don't know from big pharma or little pharma. For that kind of debate you have to go to something like the vaccine shortage problem. The vast majority don't even bother with the detail that THERE IS NO BAN on stem cell research. The only thing banned is federal funding of stem cell research on stem cell lines other than the 40 or so Bush approved in 02 or 03.
I have to assume you are being sarcastic. You know perfectly well that a ban on federal funding of research in the US is the equivalent of saying there shall be no such research. (Do you think the city council in Hoboken is going to take up the slack?)

I know enough about biology to know that 40 gene lines is not enough to maintain any vertebrate species, let alone provide the variability needed for this kind of research.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:22 pm

Discrete issues aside this administration is, in some ways, profoundly anti-intellectual. I wonder why.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:39 pm

Ralph wrote:Discrete issues aside this administration is, in some ways, profoundly anti-intellectual. I wonder why.
You are a great reader, so I assume you have read Hofstader's "Anti-Intellectualism in America." The problem with the book is that it does not go far enough.

There seem to be two choices in the western world. You can have intellectuality as a value that is misinterpreted by the average idiot who thinks he or she is an intelletcual, and mess up grossly because of lack of common sense (France), or you can have a fundamentally anti-intellectual streak and get away with it because you are so monstrous a power that it ends up making no difference (the US). Both options tend to ignore the normal distribution.

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Post by Lilith » Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:48 pm

"The only thing banned is federal funding of stem cell research on stem cell lines other than the 40 or so Bush approved in 02 or 03." Corlyss

-------------------

Those 40 have been exhausted and limit significant research tremendously. It would be like approving the morning after pill for only those women age 37 with blue eyes weighing between 110-112 pounds.

---------------------

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Post by mourningstar » Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:53 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Ralph wrote:Discrete issues aside this administration is, in some ways, profoundly anti-intellectual. I wonder why.
You are a great reader, so I assume you have read Hofstader's "Anti-Intellectualism in America." The problem with the book is that it does not go far enough.

There seem to be two choices in the western world. You can have intellectuality as a value that is misinterpreted by the average idiot who thinks he or she is an intelletcual, and mess up grossly because of lack of common sense (France), or you can have a fundamentally anti-intellectual streak and get away with it because you are so monstrous a power that it ends up making no difference (the US). Both options tend to ignore the normal distribution.
you forgot to put one more option; you can have intelligence with no political advantage (EU)
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:13 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I have to assume you are being sarcastic. You know perfectly well that a ban on federal funding of research in the US is the equivalent of saying there shall be no such research. (Do you think the city council in Hoboken is going to take up the slack?)
No, I am not being sarcastic. And no, I know no such thing. You have an information deficit. The only thing the federal funding, or lack there of, does is provide a lightening rod for political wrangling while time's awasting. This, unlike space flight, has no defense implications, does not invoke national sovereignty, and has enormous commercial potential. Just the sort of characteristics that should signal "private money," not "public funds." Contrary to the widely held belief that nothing in the US happens without taxpayer money, this research doesn't need federal money. The state of California has legislated $3 billion for stem cell research. The Gates Foundation donated $6 million to Colorado alone. The State of Illinois has legislated $5 million. Private research procedes apace because there's entrepreneurial gold in them thar stem cells someday in 20 or 40 years downstream. That's as it should be. Let the market provide the science and the useages. If the city of Hoboken wants to get into the act, say putting up some money to attract high-tech firms interested in stem-cell research and who bring in high-paid staff to bolster the tax base and bring a little class to Hoboken, then I'm sure they will float a bond issue or figure out some other way. They will be in fine company.

Stem Cells Sell
There's no shortage of private funding for research
Ronald Bailey

The National Institutes of Health spent $24.3 million dollars on human embryonic stem-cell research last year. Critics of President Bush's policy of limiting federal funding to only those stem-cell lines derived before August 2001 worry that this amount—relative to NIH's annual $30 billion budget—is not enough. Persuaded of the importance of this research, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in May to lift President Bush's funding restrictions. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced this summer that he supported that legislation. The Senate is poised to vote on the issue later this fall.

But do stem-cell researchers really need the feds? Already there is nearly $4 billion in private and state monies committed to stem-cell research over the next decade, with another three-quarters of a billion dollars under active consideration.

Setting aside commercial efforts like those of the California biotech company Geron, consider a few examples of private funding for academic stem-cell research. The Starr Foundation is providing $50 million over three years for human embryonic stem-cell research at three New York City medical institutions, including the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center. Weill Cornell Medical College, also in New York City, has established the Ansary Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics with a $15 million grant from philanthropists Shahla and Hushang Ansary.

In California, UCLA has established an Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine with $20 million in funding over the next five years. Stanford University created the Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, with a goal of $120 million in funding. An anonymous donor gave Johns Hopkins University a $58.5 million gift to launch an Institute for Cell Engineering. The University of Minnesota has set up a Stem Cell Institute with a $15 million capital grant. A grateful patient pledged $25 million over the next 10 years to finance stem-cell research at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

States are also pouring money into stem-cell research. Last November, California voters passed a $3 billion initiative to create a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine that aims to fund stem-cell research at $300 million annually for the next 10 years. New Jersey has allocated $150 million to construct a new stem-cell research center. Connecticut passed legislation authorizing $100 million in spending on both adult and embryonic stem-cell research over the next 10 years. Illinois's governor, Rod Blagojevich, moved $10 million of state public health research funding to establish a new stem-cell research institute called the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute.

On the drawing boards, a bill proposing to use $10 million from the state's tobacco settlement proceeds for stem-cell research has already been introduced in North Carolina. The Texas House of Representatives approved a measure to sell $41.1 million in bonds for a stem-cell research facility at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. There's a bond measure pending in the Pennsylvania State House. Meanwhile legislation has been introduced in the New York State Assembly to create the New York State Institute for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine with annual funding of $100 million.

One real question is whether stem-cell researchers even need the Feds. Here is another: Is it possible that President Bush's restrictions on federal funding have generated more funding for this research than would have otherwise been available?

This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
http://www.reason.com/links/links100305.shtml


Anti-Ban Billionaires
Matthew Herper and Robert Langreth 08.16.06, 1:00 PM ET

Billionaire cash has kept embryonic stem-cell research alive--just barely.

Anti-abortion crusaders see research on embryonic stem cells as something akin to murder. Eli Broad sees it as a great way to save lives--and he is tapping his $6 billion fortune to help. Sidestepping the ban on federal funding of most stem-cell experiments imposed by President Bush five years ago, Broad, the founder of builder KB Home, gave $25 million in February to the University of Southern California to erect a stem-cell building.

More gifts may loom, he hints. Broad says he is saddened by the Bush Administration's stem-cell ban, which has constrained funding, forced universities to set up redundant labs off-site and let Singapore, Australia and Europe pull ahead of the U.S. in one of the most exciting new fields for fighting disease. "The promise is great," he says.

Embryonic stem cells are nascent bits of unformed genetic potential that later turn into cells that make up the brain, the heart, blood and bone and every other kind of cell in the body. One day researchers hope to turn stem cells into versatile scientific tools to repair damage at the root of Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and other maladies; the stem cells also could help develop drugs and test medicines for dangerous side effects.

But creating a stem cell requires destroying embryos when they are five-day-old balls of a hundred cells, such as fertilized eggs discarded after an in vitro fertilization. The embryo defenders say each of these microscopic balls is a human life that shouldn't be wasted. They argue that using adult stem cells culled from patients would suffice, though many biologists disagree.

Since the ban, federal funding of embryonic stem-cell work has risen to all of $40 million a year, just one-fifth of the money for other kinds of stem cells and a pittance in the $20 billion research budget of the government's National Institutes of Health. But Eli Broad and a few other billionaires--some of them from President Bush's own Republican Party--and a number of states and private foundations have stepped into the gap. They have funneled three times as much as the federal government into embryonic stem-cell research.

The anti-ban donors include Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and Republican mayor of New York; Ray Dolby, inventor of the Dolby sound system; Oraclefounder Larry Ellison; and such philanthropies as the Starr Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

"It is too early to offshore a new industry before it is born," says Andrew Grove, an Intel Corp. founder and one of the first to fund stem-cell study despite the feds' ban. Bloomberg promises $100 million to fund stem-cell and other biotech research at Johns Hopkins University, blasting the Bush regime for abrogating government's "most basic responsibility" to safeguard the public health when stem-cell breakthroughs may "save the lives of millions."

In California voters have okayed a $3 billion outlay after lobbying from Bill Gates and Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar. Opponents have tied up the funding in court, but in the meantime Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has lent the state's stem-cell agency $150 million to get going. Those bucks should start hitting university wallets early next year. Researchers "from top labs across the country are coming to California," says neuroscientist Zach W. Hall, who oversees the effort. Still more funding is set in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Wisconsin, states that have passed or are considering pro-stem-cell laws.

If the nonfederal funding accomplishes its goal, it will be breaking new ground. Every major medical treatment from Taxol to Lipitor has its roots in NIH-funded basic science. Without the NIH imprimatur, some young scientists are reluctant to stake their careers on embryonic stem cells. Roger Ashby, who heads StemCell Ventures, a tiny New York firm that funds experiments in Europe, says the U.S. restrictions give scientists overseas a huge advantage: "In America scientists are always looking over their shoulders and wondering if they are breaking a law."

Stem-cell research dates to 1981 and started out with mouse embryos, which researchers used to study the effects of individual genes and to try treating disease in mice. In 1988 came the first federal ban when the first President Bush barred implanting humans with fetal tissue (fetuses are far more advanced in development than microscopic embryos). President Clinton took office in 1993 and lifted that ban, but in 1994 he ceded some ground to the anti-stem-cell crowd by blocking the use of federal money to create embryos for research. In 1996 the Republican-controlled Congress began forbidding the NIH to use funds for research in embryonic stem cells.

Two years later, though, one researcher derived the first human embryonic stem cells by turning to private funding. James Thomson, a biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, turned to Geron, a biotech firm in Menlo Park, Calif., to fund work at an off-campus lab and sidestep the U.S. ban. Other scientists took note, and pressure arose to ease the restraints on stem-cell labs.

Cut to August 2001: President George W. Bush, confronted with the controversy, splits the embryo. He decreed that no U.S. funding can go to new stem-cell lines ("That cluster of cells is the same way you and I started our lives"). But he allowed federal grants for embryo lines that already existed.

"It was wholly inconsistent," says Douglas Melton, a Harvard researcher. "There's no difference in the moral status" of a pre-ban embryo and a postban one. President Bush cited 60 existing lines that wouldn't lose funding--but Intel's Grove knew at most 20 existed and assumed the Bushies knew that, too. "The matter in which that happened indicated a disingenuousness about it that pissed me off," Grove says in an interview.

So in 2002 Grove shot back, handing a $5 million gift to the stem-cell lab at University of California, San Francisco. Since then, UCSF has begun efforts to fund a $100 million lab devoted solely to stem-cell research, starting with $16 million from Ray Dolby. "We hope to build it as quickly as possible, perhaps in four years," says UCSF neuroscientist Arnold Kriegstein. The school's previous stem work had to go on at two off-campus sites to avoid the Bush blockage. "To get any of these advanced cell therapies into humans for the treatment of disease, we need to use human cells," he says.

Even Republicans in Congress began fretting that the Bush ban went too far. Last year Senate Majority Leader William Frist suggested lifting the ban, and by summer both houses of Congress voted to do so. The President killed it with his first-ever veto in July, saying the bill supported "the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others."

Disappointed though he is in the veto, billionaire Broad says he is optimistic Bush's successor will reconsider the issue. His $25 million gift to UCS will build a 215,000-square-foot lab dedicated to embryonic stem cells, the biggest such lab in the state once it is ready in 2008.

Moreover, another 100 or so stem-cell lines have been created despite the Bush crackdown. Harvard University has raised $50 million in private funding and has devised 30 new lines from frozen embryos donated by infertile couples; other lines have emerged in Britain and Japan. Harvard's Melton says: "It's just common sense that a ball of cells frozen in liquid nitrogen is not the same as a 5-year-old girl with diabetes."

He uses stem cells to study juvenile diabetes (his son and daughter have it), turning to the foundation of another billionaire--the late Howard Hughes. "Not only did we have a legal right to fund the research, we had an obligation," says Thomas Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Melton landed enough money to start a separate lab, and he works on turning his stem line into insulin-producing cells to study where they go wrong in diabetics. But half his budget goes to redundant lab gear and overhead he wouldn't need if it weren't for the NIH rules against stem-cell funding. His stem-cell colleague at Harvard, M. Wiliam Lensch, uses only private funding from Harvard but worries about getting in trouble if he merely talks to NIH-funded peers in his lab.

At Memorial Sloan-Kettering, stem-cell biologist Lorenz Studer has received money from Project A.L.S. and the Starr and Michael J. Fox charities (Fox, the actor, has Parkinson's). He cautiously puts yellow stickers on every piece of equipment used for banned experiments to inoculate his operation from any NIH contact. His grad students put stickers on wastebaskets to mock the NIH.

Douglas Kerr, a scientist at Johns Hopkins, which is using money from billionaire Bloomberg to create a stem-cell lab, says the lack of NIH help could delay a treatment for spinal cord injury for decades. In July he coaxed mouse embryonic stem cells to reconnect the nerves and muscles of paralyzed rats, allowing limited walking. With U.S. funding a treatment might be ready for human trials in five years, but that won't happen in the current climate. "I am stuck. It is amazingly frustrating," he says. "All I see are paralyzed patients. They have been following this work and I have to tell them I cannot do the experiments."

Still, some billionaires have shied away from this science scrap. Bill Gates' foundation, the largest in the world with $29 billion on hand, has put less than $2 million into research on human embryonic cells--at a lab at Peking University in China. Researchers there are implanting human cells in mice to look for better ways of making vaccines against aids and hepatitis C. A spokesperson for the Gates Foundation says the Peking researchers hit on the right idea; that the foundation hasn't funded a single stem-cell test in the U.S., she adds, isn't related to the anti-abortion fight.

An ardent opponent of stem-cell experimentation, Focus on the Family, takes a hard line. Billionaires have the right to fund this new field, says a senior analyst at the group, Carrie Gordon Earll, but she adds that all such research is immoral. "To destroy those human embryos is a huge moral question. We're opposed to destructive embryo research regardless of who funds it."

What of the argument that stem cells harvested from adults offer plenty of opportunity for research? Many lab coats demur. Adult stem cells in bone marrow can turn into blood and muscle and have great promise for treating a few diseases, such as heart failure and leukemia. Bone marrow transplants for blood cancers work because the marrow contains stem cells for producing blood. Similar cells show great promise in treating heart failure, as do cells from umbilical cord blood.

But no good alternative to embryonic lines exists for studying other diseases. Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Studer spent years trying to transform adult stem cells into neurons to study why they die off prematurely in Parkinson's disease. He failed and had to resort to embryonic cells. Harvard's Lensch is studying the causes of a rare genetic anemia, but once stem cells become blood or bone marrow, he loses any chance to understand what goes wrong early in the disease.

Only recently have drug giants begun early work on stem cells. AstraZeneca collaborates with Cellartis, a biotech in Sweden, to create tests to identify drugs that damage the liver or the heart. General Electric and Novartis have tiny programs using nih-approved cells. Johnson & Johnson and Becton, Dickinson have backed a tiny company, Novocell, that targets diabetes.

The life-and-death question is whether these efforts and the largesse of Eli Broad and other patrons of science will be enough to let the U.S. lead the stem-cell revolution. Andy Grove says the backlash against stem cells is like movements in the 1800s to limit research using cadavers: "Science always wins out, but how many people die in the meantime?"

The Controversy


Rarely does something so microscopic generate rancor this big.

Embryonic stem cells hold great promise, but getting them means destroying embryos.

Scientists might understand and treat disease by experimenting with embryonic stem cells.

Stem cells found in the adult body are promising treatments but are not as flexible. Cells from aborted fetuses proved dangerous in some experiments.

Federal money for embryonic cells can go to only 21 lines of cells derived five years ago. At least a hundred are available. The U.K., Sweden and Singapore have state-funded embryonic stem-cell programs.


Cell donors

Billionaires have been at the forefront of funding controversial embryonic stem-cell research.

Michael Bloomberg

A reported $100 million gift to alma mater Johns Hopkins included cash for its stem-cell institute. At a speech there, he lambasted the feds for not funding the research.

Eli Broad

Gave $25 million to build a stem-cell building at USC. More gifts could be coming. A big supporter of the California proposition that could give researchers $3 billion.

Ray Dolby

With wife Dagmar gave $16 million to UCSF to help build a new stem-cell research center. Has remained quiet about his gift.

Larry Ellison

Through his medical foundation, has given almost $4 million to various embryonic stem-cell projects.

Bill Gates

He and wife Melinda donated $400,000 to the campaign to support California embryonic stem-cell proposition. Their foundation has given a $1.9 million grant to AIDS research at China's Peking University that uses human embryonic stem cells.

Pierre Omidyar

He and wife Pamela donated a combined $1 million to the campaign supporting the California ballot proposition.




Cell Science

New York Sun Staff Editorial
August 25, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/38543

Well, there goes that election-year issue. A California company, Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that it can derive embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryos. It's too soon to say whether this will sidestep the ethical concerns of opponents of traditional embryonic stem cell research. The simple fact that such a breakthrough has happened, however, shatters the myth that President Bush's block on federal funds for such research is killing science in America.

The technique is based on a procedure already performed on many embryos conceived through in vitro fertilization. Very early in the embryo's life, a researcher removes a single cell, leaving the rest of the embryo intact. Although this method has generally been used to test for genetic diseases before the embryo is implanted in the mother, researchers at ACT have discovered that the single cell can be used to generate stem cells. This might assuage critics of embryonic stem cell research whose opposition was grounded on the fact that such research used to require destruction of the embryo, although some are expressing concerns about any procedure that would exploit an embryo for research.

Be that as it may — and we're the first to admit that thoughtful people of good will inhabit both sides of this debate — there certainly is a political dimension to this breakthrough. In August 2001, President Bush announced that he was cutting off federal funding for research on any embryonic stem cell lines that might be developed after that point. Ever since, his detractors in both parties have tried to paint him and his pro-life supporters as medical Luddites inhibiting the progress of science to indulge their quaint religious convictions. Just last month, Congress staged a showdown, passing an embryonic-stem-cell funding bill that resulted in the first veto of Mr. Bush's tenure.

Lost in that debate was the fact that Mr. Bush never banned such research. He said only that the federal government wouldn't pay for it. As it happens, ACT is a private company that has tapped the capital markets to fund its research. It also, incidentally, moved its headquarters earlier this year to California from Massachusetts in the hopes of receiving a share of the $3 billion that state's taxpayers have voted to devote to embryonic stem cell research over the next decade. Although the company, like many engaged in this research, has called for more federal money, it certainly appears that the money already available from nonfederal sources was enough to finance a major breakthrough.

This development may lead to more federal money for embryonic stem cell research, but even if it doesn't that's not necessarily a bad thing. Taxpayers will remain free to decide at the state level whether to fund such research, as Californians have. Private investors will be free to offer financing to promising biotech companies engaged in embryonic stem cell research. And adult and umbilical cord blood stem cell research will continue with full access to federal money.The latter two avenues have produced the most promising successes in tentative animal and human trials and may ultimately prove more therapeutically useful anyway since they minimize or eliminate the possibility for immune system rejection by the patient.

That is all for the scientists to determine, however. The relevant point for the politicians and the man on the street is that Mr. Bush's decision about federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is not impeding research nearly as much as his opponents have claimed. ACT's breakthrough is more than a scientific advance. It is a reminder that federal funding is not the be-all and end-all of scientific research.


denver & the west
Stem-cell gift a lift, but CU still lags
The $6 million donation, while smaller than funds obtained by other institutions, will help turn the school into "a force."
By Karen Augé
Denver Post Staff Writer

If the University of Colorado's medical school wants to become a major presence in stem-cell research, it will have to play some catch-up.

The university announced Wednesday that it will use a $6 million gift from the Gates Family Fund to create the Charles C. Gates Program in Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Biology.

While the largest research gift ever received by the school, it is smaller than the funds snared by other institutions:

In February, Eli Broad, founder of KB Home, gave $25 million to the University of Southern California to create a building dedicated to stem-cell research.

Michael Bloomberg, New York's billionaire mayor, has promised $100 million to Johns Hopkins University for stem-cell research.

The University of California, San Francisco received $16 million this year from electronics executive Ray Dolby and gets private funds from the Geron Corp. UCSF has 60 labs exploring how stem cells might be used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease. The university, with other California research groups, will be able to tap into the $150 million in state stem-cell funds made available this month.

Harvard University has raised $50 million in private funding for stem-cell research, according to Forbes magazine.

Since President Bush imposed a ban in 2001 on federal funding for the creation of new embryonic stem-cell lines, Harvard reportedly has created 30 new lines.

The Gates gift will allow CU "to develop a robust program in regeneration and stem-cell research," said Dr. David Norris, chairman of the department of neurology.

The university has coaxed Dennis R. Roop, a noted researcher of adult stem cells and skin cancer, away from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to lead the program.

Significant stem-cell research was underway at CU long before the Gates gift, by more than two dozen scientists, and in areas including cancer, Parkinson's disease and diabetes.

The creation of a new center will bring those researchers together in greater collaboration and make CU "not just a presence but a force" in stem-cell research, said one of those researchers, Christopher Hogan.

CU officials said they could not estimate the total amount CU stem-cell investigators received in grant money this year.

Roop said he will bring with him about $3.8 million in National Institutes of Health grant money, which could grow to more than $4 million if he persuades several colleagues to come with him to Colorado.

This year, the NIH will fund $609 million in stem-cell research - including $38 million for human embryonic stem-cell research.

The remainder of the NIH money will be used either for work on human adult stem cells or animal stem cells.

Some of CU's strongest competition may come not from San Francisco or Boston, but Singapore, China, Japan and Great Britain.

Singapore has lured several top researchers from the United States and late last year invested $45 million to create the Singapore Stem Cell Consortium.

At CU, the emphasis, for now, will be on human adult stem cells and animal stem cells, along with ongoing work with the embryonic stem-cell lines that were available before the 2001 ban on creating new lines with federal funds.

Stem-cell scientists at the University of Colorado medical school and their research:

Curt Freed, John Sladek and Mike Zawada are using stem cells that are found in the fluid-filled ventricles of the brain to repair brain injury. Neuronal stem cells are derived from animal or human fetuses.

Christopher Hogan and a team of researchers are exploring the use of umbilical-cord stem cells to help rebuild the blood of cancer patients and in treatment of neurological disorders and heart disease.

Carlin Long and Kelly Ambler are using mouse stem cells to regenerate heart cells in mice that have suffered heart attacks or cardiac damage.

G. Scott Worthen is using embryonic stem cells to generate white blood cells.

Norbert Voelkel and Susan Majka are investigating vascular adult stem cells that may play a role in pulmonary hypertension.

Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes researchers are investigating the potential of embryonic stem cells for cell replacement therapy for Type 1 diabetes.

James DeGregori is investigating competition between normal and malignant stem cells.

Nine researchers in the developmental biology program are investigating areas such as early spinal-cord development patterns and formation of sensory organs.
Corlyss
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jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:31 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:I have to assume you are being sarcastic. You know perfectly well that a ban on federal funding of research in the US is the equivalent of saying there shall be no such research. (Do you think the city council in Hoboken is going to take up the slack?)
No, I am not being sarcastic. And no, I know no such thing. You have an information deficit. The only thing the federal funding, or lack there of, does is provide a lightening rod for political wrangling while time's awasting. This, unlike space flight, has no defense implications, does not invoke national sovereignty, and has enormous commercial potential. Just the sort of characteristics that should signal "private money," not "public funds." Contrary to the widely held belief that nothing in the US happens without taxpayer money, this research doesn't need federal money. The state of California has legislated $3 billion for stem cell research. The Gates Foundation donated $6 million to Colorado alone. The State of Illinois has legislated $5 million. Private research procedes apace because there's entrepreneurial gold in them thar stem cells someday in 20 or 40 years downstream. That's as it should be. Let the market provide the science and the useages. If the city of Hoboken wants to get into the act, say putting up some money to attract high-tech firms interested in stem-cell research and who bring in high-paid staff to bolster the tax base and bring a little class to Hoboken, then I'm sure they will float a bond issue or figure out some other way. They will be in fine company.
Money at less than the federal level can never support research of this type adequately. Do you think that little old ladies from Pasadena could have won WW II by funding the Manhattan Project? "Oh, Mr. Einstein has such a cute idea."

The point is that Bush signed off on negating federal funds for a research project of the utmost importance. No law was mandating that money be spent this way. Is Bush's action excusable because the basket has been passed to other parties?

[

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:55 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Money at less than the federal level can never support research of this type adequately.
Lessee, it's not defense research and it has tremendous commercial potential. Yes, I don't think I need to spend my tax dollars on this kind of research.

How much of NIH's $30 billion budget, which is a law, do you think they were going to spend on stem-cell research when they are only spending $23.4 now? Maybe you didn't notice but the numbers from private donation are much greater than what the feds would thow at stem-cell research, given the political furor around it, and indeed these donations might not have materialized at all if Bush hadn't banned research on more lines.
In February, Eli Broad, founder of KB Home, gave $25 million to the University of Southern California to create a building dedicated to stem-cell research.

Michael Bloomberg, New York's billionaire mayor, has promised $100 million to Johns Hopkins University for stem-cell research.

The University of California, San Francisco received $16 million this year from electronics executive Ray Dolby and gets private funds from the Geron Corp. UCSF has 60 labs exploring how stem cells might be used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease. The university, with other California research groups, will be able to tap into the $150 million in state stem-cell funds made available this month.

Harvard University has raised $50 million in private funding for stem-cell research, according to Forbes magazine.

Since President Bush imposed a ban in 2001 on federal funding for the creation of new embryonic stem-cell lines, Harvard reportedly has created 30 new lines.

The Gates gift will allow CU "to develop a robust program in regeneration and stem-cell research," said Dr. David Norris, chairman of the department of neurology.

Roop said he will bring with him about $3.8 million in National Institutes of Health grant money, which could grow to more than $4 million if he persuades several colleagues to come with him to Colorado.
Corlyss
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jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 4:01 pm

I do hope that when they decide to eliminate Social Security and federal level penions, a few folks will chip in to the Corlyss Drinkard retirement fund. By that time I'll be too worried about my own situation to contribute. Sorry.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by RebLem » Fri Aug 25, 2006 5:59 pm

Lilith wrote:"The only thing banned is federal funding of stem cell research on stem cell lines other than the 40 or so Bush approved in 02 or 03." Corlyss

-------------------

Those 40 have been exhausted and limit significant research tremendously. It would be like approving the morning after pill for only those women age 37 with blue eyes weighing between 110-112 pounds.

---------------------
To be fair, it must be acknowledged that a number of state governments, including Arnold Kennedy Schwarzenegger's in Collieforkneeah, have funded stem cell research.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
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jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:07 pm

RebLem wrote:
Lilith wrote:"The only thing banned is federal funding of stem cell research on stem cell lines other than the 40 or so Bush approved in 02 or 03." Corlyss

-------------------

Those 40 have been exhausted and limit significant research tremendously. It would be like approving the morning after pill for only those women age 37 with blue eyes weighing between 110-112 pounds.

---------------------
To be fair, it must be acknowledged that a number of state governments, including Arnold Kennedy Schwarzenegger's in Collieforkneeah, have funded stem cell research.
California is not supposed to be the fifth biggest economy in the world, or whatever, as a semi-independent entity. It is supposed to be part of something called the United States, which is supposed to fund something called national research, which is not supposed to be a new idea.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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