Brian Behnke

In Washington's biotech debates, Irving Weissman, a professor, entrepreneur, and political activist, is among the most influential, visible, and effective advocates for the science community. He's also forthright about any potential conflicts of interest that may arise as he lobbies against curbs on scientists' freedom to conduct human embryo-related research. "I always disclose. ... Everybody in this area should do that," he says.

During his long career Weissman helped create SyStemix (which marketed the SCID-hu mouse), and StemCells, located in Palo Alto, Calif. Both companies were acquired, though Weissman retains a seat on the board of StemCells. Recently, he began preparations to float a third company, to be called CellTrans. His financial interest in stem cells is straightforward and direct: The companies' research focuses on human adult stem cells--for laboratory models, rather than therapies--and his political advocacy relates directly to his professed plans to make new-and-improved models with...

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