Off the reservation

The Director of NIH, a Bush appointee, finally speaks out for embryonic stem cell research.

Yes, stem cell research has great medical potential.

No, adult stem cells are not an adequate substitute for embryonic stem cells.

That’s not news.

But here’s news: the Director of the National Institutes of Health, appointed by GWB in 2002 as a supporter of the Bush “compromise,” has changed his mind, or at least changed his tune.

Elias Zerhouni:

It is very clear from my point of view that the current cell lines will not be sufficient to do the research we want to do…. It’s not possible for me to see how we can continue the momentum of science and in stem cell research with the lines we currently have.

It is clear today that American science will be better served and the nation would be better served if we let our scientists have access to more cell lines.

On claims that adult stem cells negate the need for embryonic stem cell research:

They do not hold scientific water. It is in the best interest of our scientists, our science, our country that we find ways—that the nation finds a way—to allow the science to go full speed on both adult and embryonic stem cell research.

The timing couldn’t be better, with Bush set once again to veto a bill to abolish his “grandfather” rule and the Democrats trying to count to 67 in the Senate and 290 in the House. It’s also a pleasant reminder of how lame a duck the Beloved Leader has become.

I suppose it’s possible that Dr. Zerhouni is reacting to new evidence. But it seems more likely that (1) he’s ready to leave the government or (2) he thinks GWB is now too weak politically to fire him, and that in either case he’d rather side with the scientists than stick with the President.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: