Friday, September 29, 2006

Two Days and Two Very Different Stem Cell Conversations

Biopolitics, biocapital and, yes, even biopiracy were all part of the rhetoric at a stem cell and ethics conference in San Francisco on Friday.

This one was offered up by UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco and was a tad different than the egg risk conference staged a day earlier by the Institute of Medicine and CIRM, also in the San Francisco area.

The expression "biopiracy" was never heard at the CIRM session. It would have shocked the room of physicians and scientists. Yet in many ways the concerns were the same both days. "Do no harm" was heard more than once at the CIRM conference, which explored some of the obligations of the medical and science commnity to egg donors.

"What do we owe each other," was a central theme of the UC conference, according to historian David Rothman of Columbia University, one of its final speakers.

He noted that it is a question that would not have been asked at the time of the creation of the National Institutes of Health.

Our read, albeit sketchy, on the group at UC San Francisco on Friday was that many in it were generally hostile concerning the stem cell efforts at CIRM and elsewhere around the world. More so than the usual critics who turn up at CIRM meetings. We were told that two scientists had refused to appear before the group when it was trying to arrange speakers.

Given that environment, and to his credit, Arnold Kriegstein, director of the stem cell program at UC San Francisco, appeared as the final speaker. He acknowledged that one concern of stem cell researchers is fraud. "We seem to be blessed with more of it more than the rest of science," he said.

Kriegstein said his researchers are trying to perform their work in an ethical way, which he said requires vigilance in a fast-moving area such as stem cell research.

A video recording of the session was made on Friday along with what appeared to be a transcript. Hopefully, those will be available on the Web site of the Science, Technoloogy and Society Center at UC Berkeley, which sponsored the conference.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting discussion on stem cell research, but I think that it isn't so much research as the patenting that concerns the "biopiracy" argument. That may be the only reason it was never uttered at the CIRM session. Great links by the way.