ESCR On The Way

“If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk again. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.” —John Edwards

The incoming Obama administration transition team has appointed Jonathan Moreno of the University of Pennsylvania as the head of the President’s Council on Bioethics Review Team.

Dr. Moreno is strongly in favor or embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) and opposed to President Bush’s policy in that area and in this position he will be able to effectively end restrictions on federal funding of ESCR.

Lest anyone be laboring under the misapprehension that this is about science or betrays a hostility towards science, they should think again.

As to the science, to date ESCR has been the most overhyped area of biomedical research with its successes painfully rare and its failures of staggering proportions. When balanced against research involving adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells, especially as neither of which bears the ethical baggage of ESCR, ESCR looks like nothing more than a latter day Philosoper’s Stone.

If you wish to understand the drive for ESCR, you need only follow the money. Billions of federal research dollars are potentially at stake, dollars which would flow nearly exclusively to major university medical research programs. Two of these institutions, Stanford and Johns Hopkins, have attacked Bush’s ethical considerations as, get this, unethical because the excepted ESC lines don’t pass the guidelines those institutions have developed, in a rather transparent attempt to artificially reduce the number of available ESC lines below the level of viability.

This flow of federal cash has become more critical to ESCR because venture capital is drying up, not only because of the financial crisis but because there has been so little progress.

As I said, people are policy. The appointment of Dr. Moreno to this position means the existing ESCR regulations will be overturned. And in the hope of making Christopher Reeves’s everywhere walk again we will siphon on increasingly scarce research dollars on a scientific dead end which has no other rational objective but to stick its finger in the eye of the pro-life movement.

I can see how Doug Kmiec was able to tout an Obama administration as a good choice for pro-lifers.