The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Friday Science Review: September 25, 2009

A quiet week for journal publications but there were a few significant research related activities…

Canadian Stem Cell Charter: At the recent World Stem Cell Summit in Baltimore, Canada stepped up and demonstrated why we are one of the leaders in stem cell research.  This time it was not a lab discovery but the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s launch of a charter outlining ethical principals and a code of conduct to guide stem cell research in a responsible and ethical way.

The Stem Cell Charter upholds the following principles:
• Responsibility to maintain the highest level of scientific quality, safety and ethical probity
• Protection of citizens from harm and the safeguarding of the public trust and values
• Intellectual Freedom to exchange ideas in the spirit of international collaboration
• Transparency through the disclosure of results and of possible conflicts of interest
• Integrity in the promotion and advancement of stem cell research and therapy for the betterment
of the welfare of all human beings

Bartha Knoppers, a bioethicist at McGill University’s Centre of Genomics and Policy, authored the charter in collaboration with a working group of scientists, patients, ethicists and laypeople.  She describes the purpose of the charter:

“There have been a lot of spurious claims in this area, people doing the first of this or the first of that, and it not being true,”

“It’s a wake-up call to scientists to remind them that if they want to work in this field, they have to do so under a scientific code of conduct and it’s to reassure the public that this is not the Wild West.”

“We’d like to keep it a credible science,”

“We’d like to keep it a science that merits public investment and public funding.”

Signing on (www.stemcellcharter.org) and adhering to the charter is one way of doing just that.  It is also a way for the public to show their support for stem cell research and to make their voices heard.

By the way, September 23rd was Stem Cell Awareness Day!

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF): This was mentioned in yesterday’s post on this blog.  Michael J. Fox announced the charity status of the Canadian arm of his MJFF for Parkinson’s Research in association with The McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine (MCRM) and Toronto Western Hospital (TWH).  I just want to emphasize the significance from a research perspective.  He is an advocate for stem cell based therapy and his Foundation promotes and emphasizes the sharing of scientific information to facilitate quicker results – “We don’t just fund research.  We fund results.”

Flu shot increases risk of H1N1 virus:  An unpublished Canadian study is garnering attention by suggesting that a seasonal flu shot may actually increase an individual’s chances of catching the H1N1 virus.  The report is still under peer-review and the details are not available but it was enough for Ontario to modify its flu vaccination program this season.  Younger people will not be offered the seasonal flu vaccine until they receive the H1N1 vaccine, which will not be available until mid-November.  Other provinces are also considering making some changes to their programs.

The CDC and WHO are looking into this controversial study but are taking a cautious stance, refraining from acting too quickly:

“The reason why this may be different in Canada and in this particular study than in other places of the world is not yet identified. It may be a study bias, it may be that something is real,”

“None of the other countries have been able to find anything like that”

This enhancing effect would be unusual for flu viruses but not completely new from a biological perspective.

Dr. Danuta Skowronski of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and Dr. Gaston De Serres of Laval University led the research study.

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One response to “Friday Science Review: September 25, 2009

  1. Pingback: Friday Science Review: October 2, 2009 « The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

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