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Presidential leadership in biomedicine  should be an issue in the Wisconsin primary 

Science Matter march

It appears that science policy  this may be a major difference between Hillary and Bernie.

Opposing views of Clinton and Sanders on biomedical research

Opinions about science matter.  
This especially true in the case of stem cell biology where Republican religious views of human life have obstructed an entire  field of biology.
Tomorrow’s primary is in the state where stem cell biology and the controversy began.   The first successful culturing of human embryonic stem cells by James Thomson was at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1998.  Only after  much controversy, the Bush administration declared that taxpayer money could be used for research using a limited number of  already-created embryonic stem cell lines, including those developed in Wisconsin.

” Advocates within the scientific community cite <Senator Sanders’>  voting record in the early 2000s in the House when he repeatedly supported a ban on all forms of human cloning, including one called therapeutic cloning intended to create customized cells to treat disease.” AP

Robert Klein, chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine says “Sanders and (then Republican House Majority Leader Tom) DeLay — some unlikely group — were just unyielding and they were part of the religious right’s attempt to shut down this whole critical new frontier of therapy for chronic disease,”
A number of scientists have echoed  have echoed this concern. While serving in the House, Sanders voted to ban therapeutic cloning in 2001, 2003 and 2005 as Congress grappled with the ethics of biotechnology and scientific advances. Sanders also co-sponsored bans in 2003 and 2005 that included criminal penalties for conducting the research and opposed alternatives that would have allowed the cloning of embryos solely for medical research.

Congressman Sanders said  he had “very serious concerns about the long-term goals of an

This makes me wonder how Seattle's $15 minimum wage may have affected the take home of restaurant wprkers/

Sanders’ stand on stem cell biology worries me. There are many difficult issues facing the US but science ought to be one where he would seek advice from our elite scientists  rather than from the the religious, political, environmental, or industrial advocacy groups that dominate so much of American politics. 

increasingly powerful and profit-motivated biotechnology industry.” In a later vote, he warned of the dangers of “owners of technology” who are “primarily interested in how much money they can make rather than the betterment of society.”

As a supporter of Senator Sanders, this is VERY disturbing to me. As a scientist, a critical issue in the 2016 Presidential race is the election of President who not only spends money on  politically popular science  but understands enough about science to provide leadership on what should be popular.  That sort of leadership requires that the President appoint and listen to great advisers.
Frankly, this is an aspect of President Obama that has disappointed me.  Francis Collins, the current director of the National Institutes of Health, is an outspoken fundamentalist Christian. Presumably Francis Collins was chosen in the hope of appeasing the Republicans but the result has  been a very dubious leadership of our biomedical research.  Our next President needs to show more courage in his or her choice of leadership not only for the NIH but the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and even DARPA.

Harold Varmus was great choice made by Presidents Clinton and Obama.  Harold, Nobel Prize-winner, former Director of the NIH under President Bill Clinton and former Director of the NCI under President Obama put it this way, “We … look… for signs that   is going to be a supporter of what science and technology can do and I think everyone in the country ought to be worried about that.   I am quite concerned about his  stance on these issues. This is a litmus test. It was 10 years ago — it’s still a test that he failed in the view of many of us.”

The response from Senator Sanders’ campaign policy director is less than reassuring.  He says that Sanders “strongly supports stem cell research, including research on embryonic stem cells. He understands that stem cell research holds the possibility of remarkable discoveries, even cures, for many illnesses — from Parkinson’s and diabetes to Alzheimer’s and arthritis.” But the Sanders camp goes on to say that  “therapeutic cloning is a good thing, but only with proper oversight and regulations. The reality is that the corporate biotechnology industry is motivated almost exclusively by their quest for short-term profits and higher stock prices. There must be proper oversight over this industry.”

As someone who has  worked in both academia and industry, this is pure hocum. None of us is perfect, by the idea that biotech is evil is more worthy of the Tea Party than it is of the party of rationalists like  Jefferson, FDR and Obama.  

Bernie needs to speak up!

based on material published by AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard


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