Jill Stanek

How big a blow was Geron’s bombshell that it is bailing on embryonic stem cell research? BIG.

Jill Stanek
Jill Stanek
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November 22, 2011 (JillStanek.com) - Out of nowhere the Geron Corporation announced last week it was not only halting the first clinical trial of embryonic stem cell treatment on humans but getting out of the embryonic stem cell business altogether.

To understand how big a blow to the embryonic stem cell industry this was, you first must know it was Geron that funded the University of Wisconsin Madison’s original research back in 1995, which resulted in the first cultures of embryonic stem cells. It was Geron that started this whole mess.

Geron went on to comprise one-third of the triune that controlled which company or university got access to embryonic stem cell lines, along with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

In its position of power Geron grabbed the “exclusive commercialization rights” to the three most lucrative areas of embryonic stem cell research if treatments are ever found – spinal cord injury, heart disease, and diabetes.

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Geron’s juggernaut culminated last year with the FDA’s first approval of embryonic stem cell treatment on human spinal cord injured patients, “triggering a wave of ebullience from scientists, investors and patient advocates,” according to the California Stem Cell Report.

Embryonic stem cell supporters were giddy with hope that Geron would find something, anything, to fulfill the “promise” of embryonic stem cell research.

Former Geron CEO Thomas Okarma (pictured left) only fueled that hope by boasting Geron stock shares would likely soar to “biblical proportions” if its spinal injury research was successful, in which case, he said, “the company’s biggest challenge may be to fend off takeover bids.”

In all, Geron invested 15 years and a whopping $150 million into embryonic stem cell research.

Only to abruptly dump it? What a difference a year makes.  The value of Geron’s stock in the past year has fallen 70%, and since last week’s announcement it has only sunk lower. It is laying off 38% of its workers.

Meanwhile Geron and the media insist the spinal cord trials were going just fine and that Geron’s decision was purely one of “financial priorities.”

But I am not alone in sensing something more is afoot. One speculation, according to Science Magazine:

The development of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are adult cells genetically reprogrammed to resemble embryonic ones, means that Geron’s exclusive licenses may be worth less.

Or worthless, hopefully – obsolete. iPS cells are skin cells thought to have the same ability as embryonic stem cells to grow a variety of ways 1) without the controversy; and 2) without the potential for rejection, since iPS cells come from a patient’s own body and not someone else’s, such as cells from embryos.

Another possibility, quoting ABC News:

“This company would not walk away from this trial in the absence of an unexpected complication or safety concern, if there was any evidence that it was working,” said Dr. Daniel Salomon, associate professor in the department of molecular and experimental medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

I spoke with Dr. David Prentice (pictured right) of Family Research Council today. Dr. Prentice is an expert in the field of stem cell research.

Dr. Prentice also speculates something went wrong with the spinal cord trials, which will eventually come to light if true.

“Note the phrase that always shows up,” said Dr. Prentice, “that there are no ‘serious‘ adverse events,” a red flag he thinks.

This is true. Quoting the Associated Press: “So far, the treatment… has been tolerated well without any serious side effects, the company said.”

Quoting Geron’s own press release: “To date, GRNOPC1 has been well tolerated with no serious adverse events.”

Geron and MSM have countered that this initial trial was only to test safety, not improvement.

“But Geron was obviously looking for something positive, beyond that the treatment doesn’t kill the patient,” said Dr. Prentice. “Thirty percent of patients show spontaneous improvement in the first year, and I’m betting Geron was going to take credit.” But nada.

In all, the spines of five patients were injected with embryonic stem cells. Geron has committed to following these patients for 15 years, well beyond the normal length of time trial patients are typically followed. “You only follow that long for something that might cause a tumor,” explained Dr. Prentice, “because it takes years for these tumors to show up.”

Indeed, the chief problem found with embryonic stem cells is they uncontrollably grow into tumors.

Dr. Prentice suspects Geron’s embryonic stem cell department has become a “hot potato” it will now find difficult to dump. The very fact it is halting embryonic stem cell research for economic reasons makes it economically unappealing to buyers.

Some say Geron’s decision may have dealt a death knell to embryonic stem cell research altogether, “wonder[ing] whether the field of embryonic stem cell research has been abandoned in the U.S. completely,” according to ABC.

That may be true of investors, but there’s always government funding, i.e., money belonging to you and I.

Reprinted with permission from JillStanek.com


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

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By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

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By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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