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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Passion, Dispassion and Pink Ribbons

Raising money has become the priority, regardless of the consequences. 
It's almost as though our disease is being used for people to profit. And that's not okay. 
For people to finally rise up and object, they have to be aware of the lies they are being fed.
One more thing about this Atossa Genetics Cargo Cult. The three quotes above came from the Pink Ribbons Inc. documentary. There is a lot going on here and it's more than just pink ribbons and breast cancer. It represents all of the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Quay has made himself a millionaire by running biotech/pharma highly questionable companies. He is not a breast cancer specialist. Previously he tried to sell us a nasal spray to fight obesity. He knows that disease is profit and he seeks the most profitable. We as human beings need to guard against profiteers who wish to fill the market with ineffective, poorly researched, poor quality, potentially dangerous products. Open the Atossa Genetics website. Do you see a color similar to the pink used by Susan Koman? Coincidence? The pink ribbon profiteers paved the way for the latest Quay invention. The product is cheap plastic suction cups made in China and a genetic test that the FDA says does not have sufficient quality control. The "National Reference Library for Breast Health" is not federal government institution. It is not a branch of the NIH or the NSF. It is something within the Atossa company. A company that uses the momentum of the money making pink ribbon machine to put more money into the pockets of a few Cargo Cult leaders.

The best way to conduct research is the opposite of what we see with the pink ribbon crowd. The best way to conduct research is to do so dispassionately. If we in the life sciences were to create a manifesto for living the life of a scientist it would have to include the idea of dispassionate research. We can be passionate about our science and our work. We just can't let our passion for anything get in the way of seeing the world for what it really is.

Dispassionate: Devoid of or unaffected by passion, emotion, or bias.

The way in which biotech and pharmaceutical companies get support for their work is by catering to the passion others have in finding cures for disease. At this point of my argument I might be tempted to quote Jonas Salk, "Can you patent the sun". It is a quote often used as the moral impetus to forgo patents and profits from vital medical innovations. To quote from this post from Roy Zwahlen in BiotechNow:

As pointed out by Robert Cook-Deegan at Duke University, “When Jonas Salk asked rhetorically “Would you patent the sun?” during his famous television interview with Edward R. Murrow, he did not mention that the lawyers from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis had looked into patenting the Salk Vaccine and concluded that it could not be patented because of prior art – that it would not be considered a patentable invention by standards of the day. Salk implied that the decision was a moral one, but Jane Smith, in her history of the Salk Vaccine, Patenting the Sun, notes that whether or not Salk himself believed what he said to Murrow, the idea of patenting the vaccine had been directly analyzed and the decision was made not to apply for a patent mainly because it would not result in one. We will never know whether the National Foundation on Infantile Paralysis or the University of Pittsburgh would have patented the vaccine if they could, but the simple moral interpretation often applied to this case is simply wrong.”

I used to live close to a Ronald McDonald House and the Seattle Childrens Hospital. Every time I went to the store I parked by the playground next to the Ronald McDonald House apartments. Little children, bald from chemotherapy, would be playing with their families. They just want to have fun and live life but soon you'd see them heading up the street to the hospital for God knows what. Given the opportunity to work in research you could use such an image to passionately pursue a cure. Once you start to look at the data however, you must put your passion aside. You must follow the precepts of the scientific method. It does not allow you to take shortcuts to save that one child whom you've just watched walking to the hospital. Likewise, your desire for fame and fortune should not affect the way you design experiments or interpret the data. It should not effect how you communicate your work.

With that in mind think about the brief history of Atossa Genetics. There is the off-pink color of their website. There is the the fact that 20 days prior to the recall we had this sponsorship of The Third Annual Power of Pink luncheon, fashion show and silent auction. There is also the issues raised in the FDA warning letter. In a dispassionate manner, I would you value Atossas charity towards the pink ribbon money raising movement and more than the quality of the product they intend to sell to women with breast cancer. Would you see their charity as part of their marketing plan? 

That is my passion, seeing the world as it really is. I do not see a negative side to pointing out a negative. A Pink Ribbon Profiteer is a bad thing and pointing that out is good. Poor quality science is a taking all of the money and power out of science. The passion people have towards ending disease leads them to donate money to organizations like Susan G. Koman. It leads them to cheer for the financial success of Dr. Steven Quay. However, we must be careful when dealing with our emotions. Others will use them against us. With science, we have discovered the way around all of this. With Cargo Cult Science the others have discovered a way around science. You can give money to charitable organizations, wear a colorful T-shirt, walk a 5K for the cure and hope something positive happens. You can also watch what they do with the money. Watch out for the Atossas because they want some of that money. 

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