Sunday, October 21, 2007

New CIRM Director No Intellectual Shrinking Violet

Consider the following from Floyd Bloom, the latest appointee to the board of directors of the largest single source in the world of funding for human embryonic stem cell research.
"A growing problem of major proportions has been staring us in the face for many decades. Until solved, this long-neglected problem presents a gigantic obstacle to the application of the discoveries flowing from biomedical research into deliverable standards of medical practice that could benefit all of society, both in the United States and globally. This problem is the imminent collapse of the American health system. Unless steps are taken soon to undertake a comprehensive restoration of our system, the profound advances in biomedical research so rapidly accruing today may never be effectively transformed into meaningful advances in health care for society.

"Today's term for such evolutions of discovery into application has been dubbed 'translational research'. The appealing notion that research advances travel from bench to bedside is laudable, but conceptually flawed."
Bloom made the statement in 2003 when he was was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. While some on the Oversight Committee of the California stem cell agency may share his sentiments, few have expressed them so publicly and eloquently. Indeed, Bloom's views seem, in many ways, a departure from the standard operating procedure at CIRM, which is somewhat wary of flying in the face of established scientific and medical culture.

Bloom (see photo) was appointed this month by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer to fill a vacancy on the 29-member CIRM Oversight Committee. Lockyer said that Bloom has "dedicated his life to biological science research and is responsible for numerous breakthroughs in neuroscience understanding."

Bloom retired in 2005 as chairman of the Scripps Research Department of Neuropharmacology in La Jolla, Ca. At the time, he said he planned to devote more time to Neurome, Inc., a La Jolla biotechnology firm involved research into human neurodegenerative diseases. Bloom co-founded the firm in 2000.

At one stage in his youth, according to an article on Molecular Interventions, Bloom was encouraged to go into journalism because of his penchant for telling stories. In 2002, he became editor-in-chief of Science, the AAAS journal. He spoke with Molecular Interventions about his views on running a magazine:
"The best thing is to have controversy in an intellectual manner because people read it. They like to see the Christians fight the lions, right? And so if you can engage in an intellectual discussion, then you attract readers and at the same time people get informed from the debate because they'll learn parts of alternative arguments."
Bloom, who also served both as president and chairman of the AAAS, carried his views beyond the pages of scientific media. A few years ago, he told the New York Times:
"I'd like for us to consider health care to be regarded as something like a public utility. To me, if we agree that universal coverage is something to be desired, is that really much different than the fact that we've all agreed that everyone in the country is entitled to have electricity, water, telephone connections, if they can pay for it. We have all kinds of ways to help people get those basic provisions of life.

"And health benefits could be viewed in exactly that same utilitarian way. It could be a corporate network like water power and electricity, with regulatory agencies that set the rates for profit."
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