Eugenic strategies under patriarchal (neo)liberalism

[Today the F.D.A. in the US approved the test of a “therapy” for spinal cord injuries developed with embryonic stem cells, which the *NY Times article below reports. Not surprisingly, the article mentions the controversy that surrounds embryonic stem cell research with respect to the moral status of the embryo, but makes no mention of the potential for the technology to lead to increased commodification of women’s bodies and exploitation of women in the global South, nor its deleterious consequences for the lives of disabled people, issues I have discussed in my comments to previous posts made on the blog. — ST]

F.D.A. Approves a Stem Cell Trial

Published: January 23, 2009

In a research milestone, the federal government will allow the world’s first test in people of a therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells. Geron’s trial with embryonic stem cells will involve people with severe spinal injuries, and will mostly test the therapy’s safety. Federal drug regulators said that political considerations had no role in the decision. Nevertheless, the move coincided with the inauguration of President Obama, who has pledged to remove some of the financing restrictions placed on the field by President George W. Bush.

The clearance of the clinical trial — of a treatment for spinal cord injury — is to be announced Friday by Geron, the biotechnology company that first applied to the Food and Drug Administration to conduct the trial last March. The F.D.A. had first said no, asking for more data.

Thomas B. Okarma, Geron’s chief executive, said Thursday that he did not think that the Bush administration’s objections to embryonic stem cell research played a role in the F.D.A.’s delaying approval. “We really have no evidence,” Dr. Okarma said, “that there was any political overhang.” But others said they suspected it was more than a coincidence that approval was granted right after the new administration took office. “I think this approval is directly tied to the change in administration,” said Robert N. Klein, the chairman of California’s $3 billion stem cell research program. He said he thought the Bush administration had pressured the F.D.A. to delay the trial. Mr. Klein called the approval of the first human trial of this sort “an extraordinary benchmark.”

Stem cells derived from adults and fetuses are already being used in some clinical trials, but they generally have less versatility than embryonic stem cells in terms of what tissue types they can form.

Read the entire article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/business/23stem.html?th&emc=th

*(Notice that this article appears in the Business section of the NY Times, rather than its Technology section.)

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