Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Latest Thoughts on Why Ocata is Being Bought out by Astellas

A snippet from Part 4 of Light a Candle: (warning: narrative excellence not guaranteed):

How exactly had this happened? Where had everything gone wrong, and why? We were all groping the dark for answers. I knew better than most people that it had almost certainly not happened because of problems with the science. I still winced when remembering the endless odysseys to the OHSU library, wheedling my way in to do forbidden research—or at least research that it was forbidden to do in any more convenient way if you’re weren’t either a student or a professor. It also didn’t really explain anything to say that Astellas had been willing to do the JV and then leaped on the opportunity to take over the company outright. Who wouldn’t have done that? Why were they able to do it? That was the real question, and the key.

Pentecostal protestors weren’t marching with pickets around Pfizer. The top corporate officers at Janssen Pharmaceuticals weren’t raving evangelicals. Death threats weren’t being sent to the entire board of directors at GM. Nothing immediate was happening, and perhaps it would be better if it were. The obvious and immediate threat could be confronted and fought. But the sneaky sludge clogging the gears had been building up for many years. In brief? The long-term situation created by “religious” protests had led to the current reality, which was that Ocata’s perceived worth was a fraction of its real one. The market ran on fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Logic often had little to do with value that was perceived. Ocata did not have current cures that were commercially available. People couldn’t take their blind grandmas to the retinal specialist and bring them back crying, “I can see again!” Embryonic stem cell research was buried under layers and layers and layers of smothering superstition, fear, and a strange hatred. So direct experience was all that would convince the average person. And it was still years away from happening.

Except that in Japan, it wouldn’t be. That culture simply didn’t care; they were untroubled by the shibboleths. They knew that saving people’s lives, adults’ lives, children’s lives, was more important than hysterically clinging to some insane illusion about the value of a blastocyst that would otherwise have been thrown into a dumpster behind a fertility clinic.

Another rant was definitely shaping up. I rubbed my nose.

The Missing Word: Why we don’t have stem cell cures.

If you have been following stem cell research at all, and especially if you or a loved one has an incurable disease that could only be cured by a stem cell-based treatment, there’s one question that has burned in your mind and kept you up at 3 a.m. more than once. And it’s this.

After so many years of heavily funded ADULT stem cell research, why don’t we have stem cell cures?

The answer is both simple and heartbreaking. The wrong kind of research has been funded. If adult stem cell research was ever going to get much of anywhere, then the last stem cell treatment approved by the FDA would not have been in 1956. Yep, you read that right. NINETEEN FIFTY-SIX.As in fifty-nine years ago.

Funding for embryonic stem cells has been blocked not once, but FOUR SEPARATE TIMES. The federal funding block would still exist if Shirley vs. Sibelius hadn’t narrowly been struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago. The only type of stem cell therapy that holds any real hope of helping suffering human beings has been defunded, demonized, villified, and found guilty by association.That’s why Ocata’s revolutionary stem cell research is going to Japan, where they really don’t care about the supposed “morality” of using HESC’s. (The irony, of course, is that Ocata’s stem cell technology doesn’t destroy embryos at all. The research itself is guilty by association.) No, they care more about cures, which is apparently too much to ask in the U.S. (and apparently the entire Western world, seeing as how Nouse is a British source.) How can this be? This article pretty much sums it up. Business plus politics equals science: The underworld of regenerative medicine

But there is a GLARINGLY MISSING word in that headline. One word. How do we know? This.

“The company’s focus is regenerative medical treatments using human embryonic stem cells (ES). There is widespread controversy about their use, many of you will know and have a different opinion regarding how and when, if ever their use is justified. The very creation of therapeutic stem cells is central to the debate as it involves destruction of embryos. The debate is complex and multisided. Some argue that a life is created therefore termination is unjust. Whereas others feel that a life is formed at a later developmental stage and therapeutic value of these early pluripotent cells is too great not to utilize.”

Can we talk here? Can we be honest? There is ONLY ONE REASON why anyone would think there is “widespread controversy” about the use of hesc’s, whether their use is “justified”, etc etc etc. The debate is not “complex and multisided.” It exists for only one reason. And that’s the missing word.


No, that word doesn’t sum up the problem by any means. But notice that I said religion, not God. Religious fundamentalists have made this argument since 1998 because they’ve convinced themselves that they’re speaking for what God wants, and they have blocked stem cell treatments that could have cured millions of incurable diseases ever since. That’s the only reason. Never mind that Ocata’s treatments don’t even destroy a single embryo but get lumped in with those who do.

So why can’t this stupid article just be honest? Don’t use weasel words like “some.” Say “people who claim they are speaking for God.” And say “religion.” Just be straight with us. But that this would be too honest, and we can’t have that.

Nobody knows what God wants. I don’t know, and the fundies certainly don’t know. But one thing I do know is that millions of people are suffering and dying from diseases that have no treatment and no cure. Embryonic stem cells could provide that cure. If you’re reading this and you’re an atheist, this one is a pretty easy sell. But if you’re a person of faith– as I am, which may surprise you if you’d read this far– then think about this. Does your God want millions of people to suffer and die unnecessarily? Because if you can say “yes” to that… then that doesn’t sound like a loving God to me. It sounds more like a god that people create from the worst parts of themselves. And think, really think, about whether or not this would be a god worth worshipping– or if people are just trying to find a way to justify their own prejudices and fears by stuffing them into the missing word.