Tuesday, May 31, 2016

‘We lose money doing this’: Tiny company caught in abortion debate takes on Congress -

PLACERVILLE, CALIF. — StemExpress, a tiny biomedical company in this foothill town east of Sacramento, has emerged at the heart of the contentious national debate over abortion and the scientific use of human fetal tissue. FBI agents say its floor-to-ceiling windows are security hazards, a potential line of sight for snipers. The backdrop of pine trees and hills provides cover, employees say, to strangers who crouch with cameras.
Inside, Melanie Rose, a laboratory technician, knows anyone could be watching. One recent May morning, she opened a foam box with fetal tissue packed in ice — a donation for medical research.
Rose, who is working toward a master’s degree in stem cell treatment, is one of 24 employees here thrust into view after antiabortion activists released a series of videos last year.
The videos shed light on an uncomfortable aspect of a little-known industry. They targeted Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and, for a time, StemExpress paid a nominal fee to obtain the fetal tissue. The tissue, which is in limited supply, is a vital component in stem cell research — a great hope for medical breakthroughs. StemExpress collects the tissue and extracts the stem cells for researchers worldwide. Most of it is from adult sources — drawn from blood and bone marrow — but a small amount is from fetal tissue.
That work, with fetal tissue, has catapulted the small biotech firm out from under the radar. It is now the target of loiterers, protesters and death threats and the subject of a congressional inquiry.
At the heart of the issue is whether the work is done for profit. The exchange of fetal tissue for research is legal, so long as neither party makes money in the deal.
An undefined term is work done for profit. Whose profit ? Truth it be known,  most biological tissues are discarded as hazardous bio-waste, in special hazard containers. They are incinerated.   
Why do pro-lifers think that recycling biological waste is to be prohibited? This waste would be thrown away.  It is no longer living human tissue. It is unable to 'live' independently without extreme life support, perhaps in a tissue culture medium at best.  Harvesting early fetal remains as a result of an abortion, therapeutic or otherwise.  The fetus is dead ! Long live the fetal cells.
Are we destroying a life ? Our definition of life is hazy at best. It is an argument that will never end.  Some however like black and white answers because it eliminates the effort of careful thought and alternatives to conventional thinking.  The matter of equality and choice of rest rooms for transgenders becomes equal in the political spotlight along with abortion, and gay rights.  Our structured and catalogued life choices is disintegrating rapidly.
The choices are not black and white. they are different grays for each person.
House Republicans and antiabortion advocates assert that firms such as StemExpress do profit illegally and that that profit fuels a demand for abortions.
StemExpress chief executive Cate Dyer says profit is not a factor. “We lose money doing this,” Dyer said about working with fetal tissue. “We don’t have to do this, and we won’t stop doing this.”  And why is profit such a bad thing?  In no way can careful disposition of a biological waste substance be equated with a calculated murder, or even a negligent homicide. It's not solyent green, as many opposers would have us believe.
The consequences of this supercharged debate transcend one firm. Scientists and doctors across the country say the political turmoil on Capitol Hill has stalled lifesaving work and imperiled progress toward, among other treatments, a Zika virus vaccine.
“We want to accelerate lifesaving research,” Dyer said. “That’s what it’s all about. That is my passion.”
Dyer once worked as an emergency medical technician at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s trauma center. Watching people die every day at the Southern California facility, she said, inspired her to search for ways to prevent death. She started the company in 2010 with $9,000 in savings. In 2015, StemExpress said it posted roughly $5 million in revenue.
Her company’s innovation, as she describes it, is isolating the stem cells from donor tissue from the clinic, which extends their lifespan for research. Otherwise, she said, a researcher in New York who wanted an adult liver in California would lose a substantial number of its usable cells during the cross-country flight.
Before the videos came out, Dyer said, StemExpress had never had so much as a threat. Hundreds have since hit the StemExpress inbox. She said a recent message was typical of what they’d received: “We know that you use aborted fetuses in your ‘research.’ Repent now before it is too late.”
Dyer said the company provides the samples to researchers at a financial loss to expedite the creation of medicines and vaccines — and that fetal tissue represents less than 1 percent of the business.
“I want to be able to focus on saving people’s lives,” Dyer said, “and instead I have to deal with death threats.”
David Daleiden, an activist who leads an outfit he calls the Center for Medical Progress, secretly shot the videos. He started looking into StemExpress after seeing a Craigslist posting for a contract job to collect tissue from a women’s health clinics.
"StemExpress is a business, and that’s clear from the list of products and bioservices on its website", Daleiden found it disturbing.
The company’s records indicate that roughly 1 percent of the tissue StemExpress collects is fetal. StemExpress typically gave Planned Parenthood $55 per sample, paying mostly for use of its rooms, storage and staffers.  Last year, a StemExpress catalog advertised a vial of two million “fresh” stem cells from a fetal liver for $1,932, and $1,840 for the same amount "cryopreserved," or frozen. Company records show they charge researchers a flat fee of $595 for each sample of fetal tissue, which costs an average $732 to prepare. In addition to compensating staffers who collect the tissue, the company pays for mileage, shipping, packaging, lab equipment, screening the sample for diseases and general upkeep.
In 2015, revenue from the transfer of fetal tissue to researchers totaled roughly $26,000. The cost of preparing the tissue, the company said, was about $33,000 — resulting in a $7,000 financial loss. That is not a profitable niche and certainly not a booming niche.  Part of the problem is the media's hype about biological research, genomics and computer science.  Much exaggeration and little truth.  The buzz words, even when spoken softly, elicit primal fears
There are already many safeguards in place about these issues.
The House Energy Committee’s Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has demanded that ­StemExpress and other biomedical players hand over thousands of pages of financial records and the names of their employees, issuing 36 subpoenas since March.
Its mission, according to its website, is to compile information about abortion providers and the biotech companies who “sell baby body parts.” The members plan to send their findings to Congress at the end of the year. On Tuesday, 180 of 188 House Democrats urged Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to dissolve the panel, accusing it of harassment and McCarthyism.
Medical authorities have warned lawmakers that stigmatizing fetal tissue research could jeopardize public health. In March, the Association of American Medical Colleges — a group that includes the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Harvard University, and the Stanford University School of Medicine — sent a letter to congressional investigators.
The negative effects of these 'suspicious' activities has had a real negative impact on research.
Chilling effects on research
Those kinds of threats and the growing political pressure have chilled stem cell research at laboratories across the country.
Steven Goldman, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said the outrage — and anxiety over becoming a target of it — has delayed his research on multiple sclerosis.
In 2012, Goldman’s team received a $12.1 million grant from the Empire State Stem Cell Board to develop a cure. The team extracted stem cells from fetal tissue — collected from abortions performed at local hospitals — to see whether they could regenerate myelin, the insulating sheath around nerve fibers, in mouse brains.
It worked, Goldman said. He and his colleagues planned to start clinical trials on late-stage multiple sclerosis patients this year. Since Daleiden’s first video, however, the researchers’ supply of fetal tissue dried up.
“Hospitals seemed less willing” to donate, Goldman said. “We’d never had significant rejections by patients, and all of the sudden they were turning down consent forms.”
Goldman has pushed his multiple sclerosis research schedule back to 2019.
“This kind of delay,” he said, “results in the additional deaths of people who could have been rescued.”
“If researchers are threatened, it’s going to make us think twice about continuing research,” she said, adding that her former boss has received death threats for her stem cell work. “Ultimately, the patients that could benefit from the research won’t.”
At the StemExpress lab, Dyer has hired armed guards, installed security cameras and put her staff through active-shooter training.
Rose, the 27-year-old lab technician, wears a silver Saint Christopher pendant for protection.
“This tissue,” she said, “would be thrown away if we didn’t send it to researchers who are truly trying to save lives. I want them to see what I’m doing. That something good can come of it.”

This is certainly an issue that more Americans need to educate themselves about before making political decisions based  upon electoral rhetoric.. Don't let the politicians pick your brain apart. (they might sell the tissues for fund raising.)

‘We lose money doing this’: Tiny company caught in abortion debate takes on Congress - The Washington Post
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