GOP reps to Trump: fire NIH Director Collins for stem cell research support

Should there be a religious or moral litmus test for the NIH Director?

A few dozen super conservative Republican members of Congress have written a letter to President Trump saying he should fire NIH Director Francis Collins.

Why?

Because they claim that Collins is not conservative enough for their taste and in particular they don’t like his support of embryonic stem cell research funding.

You can read the actual letter here and see text in a clip from it below where religion is invoked. Does that mean that if the NIH Director was not a Christian that they would hold it against him/her? It sure sounds that way.Francis Collins fire letter

These Republicans argue in the letter that Dr. Collins is not ‘pro-life’ enough or perhaps moral enough for them so they are telling Trump to fire him. There is no scientific or even logical basis for this proposed action. In fact, this is about as anti-science as it can get. It’s not just putting politics over science, it is also trying to put one religious viewpoint over others and over science.
Gallup Poll embryonic stem cells

Dr. Collins’ views on embryonic stem cells are in reality not extreme as they are in line with those of most Americans and scientists. Americans generally have become more supportive of embryonic stem cell research in the past 10-15 years and this consistently shows up in most polls on the topic. For example, in a 2013 Pew poll greater than 2/3 of Americans either voiced support for embryonic stem cell research or felt it wasn’t a moral issue at all. That’s decisive. A more recent Gallup poll is very clear too in terms of Americans favoring embryonic stem cell research by about a 2-1 margin. The fact is that these 41 GOP representatives are the extremists and are trying to force their views onto biomedical science.

Also note that the “human cloning” that is referenced in this letter is not reproductive human cloning (which is actually widely controversial), but rather somatic cell nuclear transfer that can be used to make patient-specific embryonic stem cell lines, which is sometimes referred to as “therapeutic cloning”. It is also worth giving a reminder that the embryos being discussed here are left over, blastocyst embryos from fertility procedures that would otherwise mostly be thrown away as biohazardous waste. Human blastocysts have only about 100 cells, are hard to see with the naked eye, and have no distinctly human features other than their DNA.

With Trump wanting to severely cut NIH funding in general and now these GOP representatives asking for a new, uber-conservative NIH Director who will likely put science itself as a low priority and their own specific religion first, it is even more important than ever that those of us who support science and specifically biomedical research let our voices be heard. I know many people of faith who support embryonic stem cell research and science more generally. We are stronger when we are united together as advocates. This research has concrete, future potential to help a lot of people as well as end suffering and ongoing early-phase clinical trials for conditions such as paralysis and blindness show promise.

Let’s put science, medicine, and patients first.

Scientists battle Trump agenda on multiple fronts

scientists against trumpThe first ten days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been just as extreme as many had feared including those of us in the scientific community, but the early reactions of scientists to fight Trump’s agenda have been encouraging.

We’ve collectively been sparked to “get out of the lab” and do something about it.

There are many things one can do as a scientist to oppose Trump’s extremism. I wrote a post on December 2 about how scientists can try to deal with the new Trump reality. That post rings true today almost 2 months later.

Perhaps inspired in part by the massively successful Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration (and the many satellite protests across America and the world) that dwarfed the inauguration turnout much to his chagrin, a movement of scientists was born to hold the Scientists’ March on Washington. You can read more here and show your interest in participating (in DC or locally) here on their Facebook book. I’m hoping to participate either in DC or locally here in Sacramento at the state capitol.

Scientists including many Nobel laureates have signed a petition (you can sign it here) in the thousands against Trump’s toxic immigration ban. I sent in an email to sign it last night. It is encouraging to see federal judges ruling against Trump on at least aspects of this executive order.

UC Berkeley geneticist Michael Eisen has taken things a big step further than most by announcing he is running for the US Senate. You can follow him in his campaign incarnation here on Twitter. It appears other scientists are going to run for office as well.

Overall, scientists are getting out of the box of the lab and becoming more politically active in many ways in response to Trump. I see us scientists, whose lives revolve around data and facts, as having a key role in the larger movement countering the “alternative facts” fake reality pushed by the Trump administration.

Let’s fight the good fight!

TGIF: Week’s Stem Cell Headlines, Papers, & Resources

TGIF science dart board

Modified Wikipedia image

What are the latest developments in stem cells and regenerative medicine in this first week of 2017 and right before the end of the past year? Here are some of the headlines and papers that have popped up that seem notable or surprising. Be sure to also check out our stem cell & regenerative medicine meeting hub for 2017.

Alexey’s review of Cell Therapy (including stem cells/regen med) in 2016. Must-read. This links to his part 2 and there is a link to part 1 there. This is on his Cell Trials blog.

A Rapid Pipeline to Model Rare Neurodevelopmental Disorders with Simultaneous CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing. Cool system described in Stem Cells article.

Scientists find link between maternal environment and neurodevelopment disorders. More on neurodevelopment. Environment and genetics do a tango in development.

NYSCF and PGP announce availability of unique new stem cell resource for scientific research. More stem cell resources the better.

What happens to rejected papers? Neuroskeptic takes a look. A little off topic, but very interesting.

Stem Cell Research: How Scientists Grew Stomach Tissue In A Lab. Does it get hungry?

How Trump Could Slow Medical Progress. Worries about Trump & biomedical sciences.

Will President Trump restrict embryonic stem cell research funding. More worries on Trump. 

Genetically engineered immune cells melt away deadly brain tumors (from CIRM blog) New approaches to brain tumors are urgently needed. Minor thing — not sure about the use of “melt away” as a metaphor here.

Top 20 Stem Cell Predictions for 2017

stem cell crystal ball

Stem cell crystal ball

Each year I make a list of predictions for the stem cell and regenerative medicine field for the coming new year. Later in this post I list my top 20 stem cell predictions for 2017. In looking at my past predictions I realized this will now be my 7th year doing stem cell/regenerative medicine yearly predictions.

You can see below links to these predictions for past years, which sometimes seems rather far removed from today and in other cases strike me as strangely apropos of our times.

What will 2017 bring? Below are my top 20 predictions in no particular order except starting with a few hopeful visions for the coming year.

Continue reading

Trump Has FDA in Crosshairs: Impact on Stem Cell Oversight?

fda-trump-healthcareWill Trump trump the FDA?

Our President-elect recently released his health care policy agenda and it looks like the FDA is a target in terms of reducing oversight. Over at the Washington Post, Carolyn Johnson has a nice article on this development.

One point in the agenda in particular has caught people’s attention as potentially the key indicator of what is to come for regulatory oversight of biomedical products:

  • “Reform the Food and Drug Administration, to put greater focus on the need of patients for new and innovative medical products”

This one sentence says a great deal in terms of signaling that Trump wants dramatically less oversight or at least that’s how “reform” is being interpreted.

For those of us in the stem cell field this sentence from Trump sounds very reminiscent of language from proponents of reduced regulation and even stem cell clinics, who say they are just in it for the patients but keep keeping racking up profits.

This signal from Trump does not bode well for stem cell and regenerative medicine oversight in the coming years, but we’ll have to stay tuned to see how this develops.