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Science Policy, Stem Cells

Francis Collins profiled in New Yorker

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The New Yorker magazine has a fantastic profile of National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, in their upcoming Sept. 6 issue.

The piece, written by Peter Boyer, discusses Collins’ childhood on a Virginia farm, his conversion to Christianity, his thoughts on the promise of personalized medicine and – most interestingly to me – his take on the current injunction on human embryonic stem cell research:

…Francis Collins’s bureaucratic skills will be severely tested in the coming struggle. Last week, his resolve was evident. “This goes beyond politics,” he declared. As he put it to me, “Patients and their families are counting on us to do everything in our power, ethically and responsibly, to learn how to transform these cells into entirely new therapies. It’s time to accelerate human-embryonic-stem-cell research, not throw on the brakes.

Boyer also doesn’t shy away from pointing a journalistic finger at administrative missteps leading to the recent legislative mess:

Blame for this new crisis in stem-cell research can, in large measure, be placed on the attenuated way that Congress, and even the White House, has dealt with the inherent politics of the issue.

He includes quotes from stem cell proponent and congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) who urged president Obama to codify his executive order of March 2009 into law:

DeGette said that after the announcement of Obama’s new policy, which she welcomed, she wanted to press ahead one more time with her bill, which would have effectively made the Obama rules law. It seemed the perfect opportunity – Republicans were in retreat, Obama’s approval ratings were at their highest, and the Democrats, who controlled both branches of Congress, were feeling expansive. “I was all ready to go at that moment with the legislation,” she says.

Unfortunately, DeGette explains, the bill fell by the wayside in the face of other, more seemingly pressing matters.

Read the whole piece. You’ll like it. If you want to engage with the author, he’ll be live chatting with readers tomorrow, Sept. 1, at noon Pacific.

Previously: The NIH’s Francis Collins’ to do list, Collins dishes on God, (medical) drugs, and rock and roll, and Stem cell guidelines under fire

Photo by IU School of Medicine

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