Shrub's Stem-Cell Sellouts Please No One -- Except for Geron and a Southwest Texas University, Which Stand to Make Big Bucks on It
by Tamara Baker
August 13, 2001 -- SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA (APJP) -- Now that Uncle Dick is ailing, Karl Rove has again wrested control of the sock puppet with the launch codes. As always, Uncle Karl did it in order to make some more public policy that is meant to seem moral and ethical, but instead is really all about enriching a few select Bush buddies at the expense of damned near everyone else.
Most smart observers anticipated that Shrub, Inc. would backstab the religious right on this issue, and that he (or rather, Uncle Karl) had made his decision well before he actually announced it last week: the religious right has deep pockets, especially where Sun Myung Moon is concerned -- but the biotech and pharmaceutical industries' pockets are far, FAR deeper.
But what we didn't expect was that Shrubbie's minders would find a way to screw most of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, too.
See, when Shrubbie articulated Uncle Karl's stem-cell pronouncements last week, he referenced a mythical "existing 60 stem cell lines" that American researchers could work on using taxpayers' money. However, most sane researchers worldwide agree that there aren't that many stem cell lines in existence right now, and that the US only has, at the most, 15 or so.
It turns out that most of the known existing stem cell lines are owned by one US company, Geron of Menlo Park, California. And Geron has already inked an exclusive product-licensing deal with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas -- a school that already has received $50 million from the big Texas tobacco settlement, so they can buy plenty of researchers for Geron.
It didn't take Geron very long at all to trumpet its Shrub-given leverage:
Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., which funded the first successful extraction of the cells in 1998, yesterday said it owned the rights to all discoveries made using the cells. If true, this could mean that most researchers would not profit from future work, and scientists expressed reservations about Geron's aggressive position.
Thing is, some legal eagles have privately said that Geron's position isn't as strong as it alleges, but who among the pharmaceutical people will bother to fight them and the Bush Administration? If you thought the Microsoft anti-trust case was a long and expensive mess, the Geron anti-trust case will be even worse -- and this time, the White House and its Justice Department will be firmly on the side of the trusts, not the trust-busters. It's going to be cheaper and easier for most firms, especially the smaller ones, to just take their operations out of the US to places like Canada and Europe. (The Germans must especially be rubbing their hands in glee: with the biotech brain-drain from America, they will be once again the unquestioned kings of medical research, as they were back in the 19th century.)
It's impossible to delineate just how ruinous a move this was by Bush's minders. They've not only teed off most of the genuine pro-lifers, but also managed to screw the entire US biotech and pharmaceutical industries as well. Aside from Geron and a Texas university, the only other folks happy with the decision are all overseas. Unfortunately for the Bush Crime Family, most of the overseas folks can't vote in US elections.