Why did I have a dialogue with ICMS?

Yesterday I did an interview with the President of ICMS and then today I did a follow-up post providing my recommendations to them publicly on how they should move forward.

Why did I do this?

Or to paraphrase a stem cell scientist who just now let me have it:

“Why the #*@#$&^# did you do this?”

Short answer: I do not write this blog to preach to the choir.

Longer answer follows.

Whether any big wigs in the stem cell field like it or not, ICMS is not going away and if anything it is gaining traction, particularly as the stem cell field focuses so strongly on clinical translation.

This is reality. Sticking your head in the sand won’t help.

As such, being pragmatic, it makes sense from my view to try to positively influence an organization such as ICMS that, again whether certain people like it or not, is now embedded in the stem cell field and has influence.

Physicians and for-profit groups who are interested in treating patients with adult stem cells constitute a group that the stem cell field needs in the fold, not as adversaries.

Regardless of whether ICMS listens to anything I say, I think even the public dialogue can be a force for good.

By analogy (hat tip to friend who must remain anonymous), despite my strongly disagreeing with the Vatican on their approach to stem cells, if I had the opportunity to interview the Pope about stem cells, I would and I would post it on my blog.

And I would use a respectful tone.

I view my  interaction with ICMS now as much the same as some of the top stem cell scientists including George Daley and CIRM President Alan Trounson having agreed to be speakers at the Vatican meeting on stem cells.

Yes, that meeting got canceled and sure the Vatican is in a mess over it and if you read my post you see I myself was conflicted over their agreeing to speak there, but Daley and Trounson and other stem cell leaders nonetheless made a statement by agreeing to speak. I admire them for that. It took guts.

My reading of their willingness to go was that it meant not that they agreed with the Vatican or were endorsing the Vatican position on stem cells, but rather that they felt that engaging in a dialogue was valuable and worth the potential risks.

Now, I’m not comparing the ICMS to the Vatican, but rather I’m making the point that sometimes in life we have to have dialogues with people with whom we do not agree with on certain things.

Sometimes those dialogues can catalyze real change. Many times they won’t, but sometimes big change can happen. I see my recent post of my interviews and the debate between Dr. Chris Centeno and Doug Sipp as an example of a risk but one that paid off in catalyzing a dialogue that would not have otherwise happened and the post generated 28 comments in which additional interesting exchanges happened.

It is easy, really a piece of cake, for me to talk to people that I agree with and interview them for my blog or post about their opinions, etc., right?

Preaching to the choir is peaceful, huh?

It is far more challenging and risky to talk with someone that I do not always see eye to eye with. But sometimes I believe it is worth the risk.

Yesterday I emailed the two founders of Celltex inviting them to be interviewed in a non-confrontational manner and listing some questions for them. We’ll see if they respond.

3 Comments


  1. Bravo Paul.

    Super job breaking down barriers to some of the recent circular discussions. I hope (and also have faith) that colleagues in Texas will respond to your invitation for interview.

    No one has the time and money to waste lollygagging around the issues any more… so your effort and comments are refreshing. The future of this entire industry requires productive interactions if the intentions are really to move scientific discoveries off the bench and safely into the clinics to help people. We should continue to promote meaningful progress for the future health and wellness of people watching and waiting day after day while we banter.

    Perhaps your brave move to push this conversation out of the password protected chat rooms and into the open will result in more of these productive discussions.


  2. Paul,

    I applaud you for sticking to true scientific principles. Science only evolves if all points of view or hypotheses are considered. This topic has been polarized with only one viewpoint (or “hypothesis”) and the only way to get to a set of standards that balances both types of regulatory errors is by “depolarizing” the debate and seeking common ground.

    Chris


  3. Paul– Thank you for taking the risk and for your respectful tone in interviewing. You have allowed others to see some of the ‘goodness’ that ICMS has to offer. We all have the same goal of helping patients . Let’s devote our energy to improving on the work that has been done, and making strategy for what is to be done.

    Nobel Peace prize for you! 🙂

    Leeza Rodriguez

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