Monday, June 08, 2009

Why embryonic research? It's the patents (and money), dummy!

Adult stem cell research has produced cures. Embryonic stem cells have produced zilch. Then why the passion to use fertilized embryos (for my pro-choice friends, these are what you call "babies" when in the womb of women who want to bear children) for research?

In Part 1 of a ZENIT interview, Father Cioffi, research ethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, offers a three-part explanation. First:
Sadly, because of the money involved. It's all about the patents. It turns out that, since there have been so many successes in adult stem cell research, practically all of the patents are already taken up by biotechs and pharmaceuticals. However, due to the lack of results with embryonic stem cells, the slightest success in a particular biochemical pathway breakthrough is patentable, and the patent field here is wide open. Certainly, this is highly speculative research (using embryonic stem cells), which is what tends to give better returns when there is the tiniest hint of possible success. At a time when the economy is struggling, these speculative investments are a big temptation to provide the “quick fix” that everyone is desiring, so promises sell big during these times. To witness: In 2004, pro-embryonic stem cell ideologues convinced the people of California to devote $3 billion of their state taxes to this research, sold as the “cure-all” for the state’s financial bankruptcy.

ZENIT interview
National Catholic Bioethics Center
Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics