Do Two Friedman Units Equal One Okarma?
Supporters and apologists for the American debacle in Iraq habitually promise that the situation will improve in the near future - if only support at home is maintained. A media watchdog group has noted that Thomas Friedman, The New York Times' foreign policy cliché-ist in residence, has been claiming that "the next six months" are a critical make-or-break period, and that he's been doing so for over three years. Subsequently, a progressive blogger dubbed one "Friedman Unit" (FU) as equivalent to six months of prognostication. Since then, pro-war statements by others have have been quantified in these terms.
Similarly, Geron, the leading private firm trying to commercialize human embryonic stem cell products, has stated that clinical trials will occur "next year" - for the fourth year in a row:
February 22, 2004: "The company believes it will be cleared to start the first stem-cell therapy in human tests next year, possibly for spinal-cord injury."
December 1, 2004: "According to Geron CEO Thomas Okarma, the company is aiming to file an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting permission to begin clinical trials using glial cells derived from embryonic stem cells to repair damaged spinal cords in 2005 or early 2006."
February 25, 2005: "Next year [Hans Keirstead] and his corporate partner, Geron, plan to try treating people who have recent spinal cord injuries, in what would almost certainly be the first human trial of any therapy derived from such cells.
April 19, 2005: Okarma "said he believes the clinical trial could begin in mid-2006."
September 9, 2005: "Geron plans to begin clinical trials on acute spinal cord injury treatment in early 2006, according to chief executive officer Tom Okarma."
November 7, 2005: "[R]esearchers at Geron of Menlo Park want to take the next step -- in people. They hope to get federal permission to inject those cells into damaged spinal cords. The procedure -- which Geron intends to do next year -- would be the first human tests of a treatment derived from human embryonic stem cells, the highly versatile body cells that can be coaxed into becoming almost any tissue in the body."
June 17, 2006: "'I'm confident that we will be in the clinic next year with the first human ESC-derived product,' said Tom Okarma, chief executive of Geron."
August 4, 2006: "One company, in particular, Menlo Park, CA-based Geron, is taking the lead in developing experimental embryonic stem cell therapies and hopes to begin human trials next year."
May 9, 2007: "The first clinical trial of embryonic stem cells is on track to start early next year on patients with spinal cord injury. Geron, the California-based biotechnology company, will carry out the study on accident victims in six trauma centres across the US."
Obviously, the moral terrain is not equivalent. The militarists who misled the nation into war have proposed a variety of goals, all to be achieved at the barrel of a gun. Geron just wants to maximize profits by way of developing medical therapies. But much like war backers, embryonic stem cell researchers continually lobby for more federal funds. The result on the investment, they promise, is just around the bend - maybe as soon as one Okarma Unit (OU) from now.
Update (Aug. 3): After this post was picked up by the Wired Science Blog, stem cell researcher Hans Keirstead entered the fray.