Despite striking advances in the biomedical sciences, the flow of new drugs has slowed to a trickle, impairing therapeutic advances as well as the commercial success of drug companies. Reduced productivity in the drug industry is caused mainly by corporate policies that discourage innovation. This is compounded by various consequences of mega-mergers, the obsession for blockbuster drugs, the shift of control of research from scientists to marketers, the need for fast sales growth, and the discontinuation of development compounds for nontechnical reasons. Lessons from the past indicate that these problems can be overcome, and herein, new and improved directions for drug discovery are suggested.
We review here the current political landscape and our own efforts to address the attempts to undermine science education in Wisconsin. To mount an effective response, expertise in evolutionary biology and in the history of the public controversy is useful but not essential. However, entering the fray requires a minimal tool kit of information. Here, we summarize some of the scientific and legal history of this issue and list a series of actions that scientists can take to help facilitate good science education and an improved atmosphere for the scientific enterprise nationally. Finally, we provide some model legislation that has been introduced in Wisconsin to strengthen the teaching of science.
Alan D. Attie, Elliot Sober, Ronald L. Numbers, Richard M. Amasino, Beth Cox, Terese Berceau, Thomas Powell, Michael M. Cox
The long history of lead poisoning provides many lessons about the process by which scientific knowledge is translated into public health policy. In the United States, lead was added to paint and to gasoline in enormous quantities long after medical evidence clearly showed that excessive lead exposure caused considerable morbidity in the population. This article discusses some of the factors that contributed to the slow pace of efforts to address this problem, including the ubiquity and magnitude of lead exposure during much of the twentieth century, which produced a distorted notion about the blood lead level that can be considered “normal”; the prevailing model of disease during this period, notably the novelty of the concept of subclinical disease; the fact that childhood lead poisoning affected mostly families that were politically and economically disenfranchised, fostering a “blame the victim” attitude; and that controlling lead exposure would have impeded efforts to achieve other desirable goals, illustrating the role that value trade-offs often play in policy decisions.
David C. Bellinger, Andrew M. Bellinger
Since the first successful transplantation of umbilical cord blood in 1988, cord blood has become an important source of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells for the treatment of blood and genetic disorders. Significant progress has been accompanied by challenges for scientists, ethicists, and health policy makers. With the recent recognition of the need for a national system for the collection, banking, distribution, and use of cord blood and the increasing focus on cord blood as an alternative to embryos as a source of tissue for regenerative medicine, cord blood has garnered significant attention. We review the development of cord blood banking and transplantation and then discuss the scientific and ethical issues influencing both established and investigational practices surrounding cord blood collection, banking, and use.
Joanne Kurtzberg, Anne Drapkin Lyerly, Jeremy Sugarman
Offering payment to clinical research subjects, in an effort to enhance recruitment by providing an incentive to take part or enabling subjects to participate without financial sacrifice, is a common yet uneven and contentious practice in the US. Concern exists regarding the potential for payment to unduly influence participation and thus obscure risks, impair judgment, or encourage misrepresentation. Heightening these concerns is the participation not only of adults but also of children in pediatric research trials. Thorough assessment of risks, careful eligibility screening, and attention to a participant’s freedom to refuse all serve to reduce the possibility of compensation adversely affecting the individual and/or the study. Institutional review boards currently evaluate payment proposals with minimal guidance from federal regulations. Here, reasons for providing payment, payment models, ethical concerns, and areas for further research are examined.
Human embryonic stem cells offer the promise of a new regenerative medicine in which damaged adult cells can be replaced with new cells. Research is needed to determine the most viable stem cell lines and reliable ways to promote the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells into specific cell types (neurons, muscle cells, etc.). To create new cell lines, it is necessary to destroy preimplantation blastocysts. This has led to an intense debate that threatens to limit embryonic stem cell research. The profound ethical issues raised call for informed, dispassionate debate.
Gerald D. Fischbach, Ruth L. Fischbach
Despite great advances in health-related research and health care, major challenges remain regarding the causes and cures of many diseases; these may be overcome with further research. Our society is enthusiastic about fostering such investigations. However, available federal funds limit many such projects. Previously there have been sizable increases in the NIH budget, but because of the escalating cost of scientific investigation and the pressures of financing other much-needed governmental programs, recent growth in biomedical research funding has barely kept up with inflation. This article focuses on select attempts to sustain the record of scientific achievement enabled in the past by continued increasing investment and also suggests some solutions.
H. George Mandel, Elliot S. Vesell
The recent history of research on cholera illustrates the importance of establishing research and care facilities equipped with advanced technologies at locations where specific health problems exist. It is in such settings, where scientific research is often considered difficult due to poverty and the lack of essential infrastructure, that investigators from many countries are able to make important advances. On this, the 25th anniversary of the founding of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), this article seeks to recount the Centre’s demonstration of how high-quality research on important global health issues, including cholera, can be accomplished in conditions that may be considered by many as unsuitable for scientific research.
William B. Greenough III
The 146 member nations of the World Trade Organization recently came to an agreement that will allow poor nations to avoid patent restrictions and import generic versions of urgently needed medicines, but this accord has been met with criticism from international aid organizations. What effects will this agreement have on reducing the burden of disease in the developing world, and also on the pharmaceutical industry?
In a time of emerging genetic tests and technologies, genetic counselors are faced with the challenge of translating complex genomic data into information that will aid their client’s ability to learn about, understand, make, and cope with decisions relating to genetic diagnoses. The first of two companion articles in this issue examines the role of the genetic counselor, particularly in counseling individuals at risk for or diagnosed with breast cancer, in an era of high-tech health care and gene patents.
Robin L. Bennett, Heather L. Hampel, Jessica B. Mandell, Joan H. Marks
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