Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Dodgy Stem-Cell Firm CellTex tries to Bully Critical Bioethicist into Silence

Just a short note on this, because it is important. Otherwise, I'm on sick-leave and will post sparsely for a while.

Texas based adult stem cell company CellTex tries to bully bioethics professor Leigh Turner into retracting a letter that he sent to FDA, urging the authority to look into if not the operations of CellTex violate federal US regulation on the licensing of pharmaceuticals and equivalent products (such as stem cells for clinical use). The letter is now streamed online for easy inspection.

CellTex was recently in focus in Nature due to alleged unethical use of unlicensed stem-cell treatments, and its recruitment and  almost as quick loss of prominent bioethics professor Glenn McGee as its own in-house consultant, a process in turn provoking waves due to McGee's ties to the management of a leading ethics journal (see my last post of the latter affair here).

Further comments on CellTex's move on Turner can be found here and here. A general comment on the bully tactics of dodgy stem cell firms in the US can be found here. For my own part, I must confess myself amazed at how perfectly CellTex conforms to the analogy to the quackery Burzynzki Clinic that I made in my first posting. This - trying to intimidate bloggers and critics by threatening lawsuits - is exactly what the people behind the Burzynski scam uses as last resort when criticism becomes too hot to handle (see here and here and here). But in the CellTex case, there is a further twist. For what Turner has done is simply his job as bioethics scholar and citizen: He has contacted the appropriate state authority in light of worries over the legality of a commercial operation coming out of him analysing the practice of CellTex as a bioethicist. He has not declared the operation of CellTex illegal, he has simply asked FDA to look closely into the matter and mentioned a few reason for initiating such a probe. So no way that this will ever reach a court of law, and almost as unlikely that charges will actually be filed against Turner. This is pure bullying and harassment tactics meant to awake fear and create silence.

But, hey, CellTex, you know what?! This backfires badly and does nothing else than expose your own fear! The response to Turner's criticism is clear evidence that leading people inside CellTex are seriously scared of what an FDA probe would demonstrate. The more the reason for FDA to make a move, don't you think?