Dr. Leroy Hood on Embryonic Stem Cell Research & Cloning of Humans for Experimental Purposes


From "My Life and Adventures Integrating Biology and Technology," Leroy Hood's Commemorative Lecture for the 2002 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Techologies




"The agents for preventive medicine will include drugs,embryonic stem cell therapy, engineered proteins, genetically-engineered cells, and many others."



"Is it appropriate to use germ line genetic engineering to avoid disease or to improve the human condition (e.g., increase intelligence)? This debate will be a major societal issue for the future. How will society balance the narrow religious dictates of the few against the virtually unlimited potential medical opportunities for the many presented by controversial areas (in the United States) such as embryonic stem cells? As we attack the problems of mental disease, we will identify genes that predispose to particular behaviors such as aggression. How will we deal with this knowledge? To block this type of research means that perhaps 2% of humans will remain psychologically impaired—locked in the prisons of mental illness. The most reasonable approach to dealing with most of these issues is to have a thoughtful, informed, and rational public. Once again, the Institute for Systems Biology sees real opportunities for bringing these issues to society through education."



 Interview on OReilly Network (http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2002/01/18/hood.html?page=3)


I think stem cells are one of the greatest potential preventive therapeutic agents in the world of medicine, and it's just ridiculous that the religious right has put these pathetic constraints on what we can do in sorting out how to deal with the human condition, and treat people, and everything. The whole confluence of the religious with science--and you see that in terms of creationism too--is something that America as a society, as an educated society, has responded to worse than any other educated society, by far. And it is due to a small minority of very vocal people, unfortunately.

Questions of germ line genetic engineering and whether humans should take a hand in their own evolution and direct the specification of intelligence, or of physical ability, or memory, or all of those kinds of things, are interesting questions. I think from opportunity always comes challenge, and what you have to do is balance the challenge and the opportunity. I think there are very rational ways for doing that, that don't inhibit and prevent, but our society can be pretty reactionary at times, and not deal well with these kinds of subjects.


From the Institute for Systems Biology Website (http://www.systemsbiology.org/Default.aspx?pagename=predictiveandpreventive):


Since it is an anathema in medicine to predict without being able to cure or prevent, we will use systems approaches over the next 15-25 years to place these defective genes in the context of their biological systems and learn how to circumvent their limitations. This is preventive medicine. The agents for preventive medicine will include drugs, embryonic stem cell therapy, engineered proteins, genetically-engineered cells, and many others.




Puget Sound Business Journal (Leroy Hood mentioned in 8th paragraph):





From the December 17, 2004 print edition

Big names back stem-cell plan

California action forces hand in Washington

Greg Lamm

Staff Writer

A group of prominent scientists, researchers and doctors is teaming up to push for a state law permitting embryonic stem-cell research in Washington.

The effort, fueled by concerns that other states are poised to drain away top people and funding from the region's research institutions and biotechnology companies, aims to keep local researchers competitive in a science that many believe will yield cures for diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

"We don't want Washington state to be left behind on stem-cell research by default," said state Rep. Shay Schual-Berke (D-Normandy Park), who intends to be a lead sponsor for the stem-cell bill. The legislator's efforts come largely in reaction to aggressive new programs in other states, especially California, which has voted to pour billions of dollars directly into stem-cell research through its universities and other research institutions.

Schual-Berke's bill is expected to call for a state policy permitting stem-cell research, but unlike in California and some other states, the measure wouldn't provide state funding to benefit public institutions or private companies. Washington law doesn't currently prohibit stem-cell research, but federal policies discourage some forms of the scientific practice, and local scientists want to ensure that this field gains explicit protection in the state.

The stem-cell measure is one of several proposals state leaders are now floating to bolster Washington's research facilities and biotech industry. Most prominently, a measure dubbed Bio 21 calls for the state to invest $450 million, mostly from Washington's tobacco settlement fund, to back biotech research grants. State leaders also have debated a plan to tap Washington's multibillion-dollar public-investment fund for seed money for technology and biotech startups. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels continues to push publicly funded plans to transform the city's South Lake Union area into a biotech and life-sciences hub.

Some researchers have been ambivalent toward a stem-cell research policy in Washington, saying leaders should build on the state's cutting-edge research and development in areas such as cancer treatments. But Schual-Berke, who is a medical doctor, said Washington's companies and research facilities stand to lose people and resources to more robust stem-cell programs in other states.

Last year, a similar measure failed. While many researchers and scientists supported the 2004 session's stem-cell research bill, their efforts were not well organized, said Bill Bell, executive director of the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation, one of a half-dozen disease and patient advocacy organizations that have joined the coalition.

Also joining the yet-to-be-named group are 15 prominent researchers, scientists and doctors affiliated with some of the region's top research institutions. They include Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, and Lee Hartwell, president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The group also includes researchers and doctors at the University of Washington and Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason.

Schual-Berke said she encouraged supporters to form a coalition before the session as a show of support for stem-cell policy. The advance planning also, she said, could help educate the public and lawmakers on some of the emotionally charged issues surrounding stem-cell research. These issues include human cloning and therapeutic cloning.

Next year's proposed law, as did this year's, would prohibit human cloning. But it would make exceptions for therapeutic cloning, which is the growing of cells or human tissue and does not involve reproduction.

Last session's proposed legislation would have included about $300,000 in state funding. It would have directed the state Department of Health to set up guidelines for human embryonic stem-cell research. And supporters said it would have paved the way for more research and would have created more lucrative opportunities for the region's biotech businesses.

That bill, also co-sponsored by Schual-Berke, fizzled as the Legislature struggled with shortfalls in state funding overall. It also drew opposition from conservative lawmakers and religious leaders, such as Sister Sharon Park of the Washington State Catholic Conference, who argued that embryonic stem-cell research was unethical because it destroyed one-celled human embryos.

Schual-Berke says next year's bill will be similar to last session's stem-cell legislation. She said that the issue has benefited from a year's worth of national debate centered around the presidential election, which brought out Republicans such as Nancy Reagan, and Sens. Orrin Hatch and John McCain, in favor of the research.

President Bush has limited new federal funding to adult stem-cell, placenta and umbilical cord research. Bush has restricted using federal funding on embryonic cell research to only the 78 lines that currently exist. His policy does not apply to privately funded research. But some researchers and lawmakers say Bush's stance threatens to have a chilling effect on the University of Washington and other research institutions that rely heavily on federal funding for research.

While researchers have hailed the potential medical advances from stem-cell research, the controversy has made it difficult for companies and institutions to attract private investment funds. It was partly the federal policy, in fact, that prompted California voters to approve spending $3 billion in grants for embryonic stem-cell research over the next 10 years in an effort to make the state a global leader in the field. Under that plan, California would spend more than 10 times more a year than the federal government currently spends on stem-cell research.

Meanwhile, New Jersey plans to provide $6.5 million for a stem-cell research institute to be run by Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

In the state Legislature in Olympia, next session's bill won't include a call for funding. It also will not include some provisions that were seen as overly burdensome, such requiring the state to set up an anonymous registry of embryos available for research. It proposes to set up a panel to debate ethical issues, including whether embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures should be donated for research.

Still, the legislation faces political pitfalls, including a difference between Dino Rossi and Christine Gregoire, who are still awaiting ballot counts and legal challenges that have yet to determine who will be the next governor. Gregoire backs embryonic stem-cell research. Rossi supports adult stem-cell research, but has said he has reservations about embryonic research. However, Rossi has said he would not block private companies from conducting the research.

Contact: glamm@bizjournals.com • 206-447-8505x158

© 2004 American City Business Journals Inc.




Lynne Varner column in Seattle times (Leroy Hood quoted in 8th paragraph):




Friday, October 01, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Lynne Varner / Times editorial columnist
With the right leadership, state can be a biotech hub



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Scientists specializing in human embryonic stem-cell research must be getting chafe burns from constantly bumping up against Bush administration restrictions.

California, home to 50 percent of the biotech research in the U.S., has launched an initiative to spend $3 billion on embryonic stem-cell research.

During a fellowship last year at Stanford University, I witnessed up-close California's innovative spirit and embrace of emerging technologies. Now I'm back in Washington wondering if we have the will to rebel against religious right-inspired restrictions on science.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi doesn't appear to possess the imagination or vision to seriously address this question. At a recent gubernatorial debate, Rossi countered talk of state-funded stem-cell research by saying this type of science is already legal in Washington. But the former state senator from Sammamish deliberately avoided the key issue, limitations on federally funded stem-cell research.

Human stem-cell research using private money faces no limitations. But hamstringing federally funded research discourages laboratories, particularly at institutions dependent on federal money such as the University of Washington.

Irv Weissman, director of Stanford's Institute for Cancer and Stem Cell Biology, says the limitations on federal funding are chilling to post-doctoral students eyeing stem-cell research as a career.

Rather than say outright whether he opposes embryonic stem-cell research, Rossi delves into supposed obstacles. California is too far ahead of the game for Washington to have a chance of competing, he says. Hmmm. We've done rather well competing in aviation, shipping, wine and fruit production.

"Anyone who makes excuses and says we're too small and can't compete, they're going to think small and not compete," says Seattle biotech legend Leroy Hood.

OK, Rossi supporters complain, the stem-cell debate is a wedge issue conjured up by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire. Wrong. Embryonic stem-cell research became a wedge issue when it was erroneously linked with abortion. The results are federal restrictions and threats of further encroachments upon science by politics.

California's initiative brings human stem-cell research to the state level. New Jersey has passed a law creating a state-supported stem-cell research facility.

This is just the beginning as regions vie for domination in biotech and biomedicine. There is plenty of room for innovative forward-thinkers. The National Institutes of Health spent just $25 million — out of a $2 billion budget — on studies involving embryonic stem cells.

Scientists are a pragmatic lot. They aren't likely to picket for public investment in stem-cell research. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't gravitate toward it if encouraged. We shouldn't create a brain drain, either to the world leaders in stem-cell research such as France, Great Britain and South Korea, or to California.

Like any emerging innovation, embryonic stem-cell research will create jobs and economic opportunity. If the California initiative passes, there will be an immediate presence of 20 or 30 new biotech start-ups, each backed by loads of venture capital. Out of that gold rush will come one or two important discoveries. Maybe we learn the secret to regenerating damaged brain tissue or recreating a pancreas. Meanwhile, billions flow into payrolls and state coffers.

Critics will slap me out of my reverie to point out that there are equally pressing needs for biotech. For instance, how about the state doing more to assist the commercialization of technology? Or provide incentives to attract biotech companies from other states and keep the ones we have?

Fair questions. Some of that is already going on. On Lake Union, a biotech incubator called Accelerator nurtures start-ups through infancy stages. More of that should be spurred by state efforts. But I'm concerned about a governor who would close the door on scientific opportunities before we see what's inside. On human embryonic stem-cell research, Rossi slams the door on my fingers.

Guided by the right leaders, Washington can be a biotech center. It can be the place of discovery for deveoping therapies for diseases like cancer, neuro-degenerative disorders and diabetes. Thanks to the late Sen. Warren Magnuson, we have a medical research center at the University of Washington that is leagues above everywhere else.

We could spend less than half of California's proposed investment and it would still be enough to signal to scientists and venture capitalists that we take our role in this arena seriously. This region has already been singled out as a likely hub for biotech and biomedicine. We can take advantage of this economic opportunity or let it be crushed under the weight of politics.

Lynne K. Varner's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is lvarner@seattletimes.com



On the Nature of the Embryo by D. McManaman

Homily mentioning Dr. Hood

Good Friday Service for Life vs. Dr. Leroy Hood's Support of Cloning & Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Letter to Dr. Leroy Hood

From Bishop Wuerl:

While stem cell research may not be at the top of the list of concerns that many of us face in our day-to-day life, it is nonetheless of such significance that we all need to understand fully its realities as well as its consequences. Decisions made now could establish a principle that asserts and endorses that we are free to use the drastic means of taking another human life, if we deem that the end result justifies that dire action. To concede that the end – even if it is potential relief to long-standing illnesses and injuries – justifies the means is to send our children and grandchildren headlong down a slippery slope on a moral toboggan with neither a steering bar or brakes.

And from Peter Singer (a Yale professor who wants to lead us further down the slippery slope):

The dispute is no longer about whether it is justifiable to end an infant's life if it won't be worth living but whether that end may be brought about by active means, or only by the withdrawal of treatment.