TS Picks: December 30, 2015

Overvaluing startups; undervaluing human research participants; curing aging?

Dec 30, 2015
Kerry Grens


Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:

  • This year was marked by investors overshooting the worth of biomed and tech startups, according to The Verge. Theranos, a blood diagnostics company whose underlying science has been met with considerable skepticism, was the prime example of “startups whose valuation was way out of whack,” The Verge reported. “Right now, there’s a lot of cheerleading for ‘disruptive’ opportunities among VCs [venture capitalists]. What many firms seem not to understand is that though there are massive revenue opportunities in health care, ‘disrupting’ patients’ lives can lead to death.”
  • In advance of the 50th anniversary of a seminal paper on human research ethics, medical historian Susan Lederer of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health discussed in this month’s issue of AMA Journal of Ethics how the media, public, and medical community have valued the ultimate sacrifices some study participants have made for science. Lederer noted the attention by media and medical journals in the earlier part of the 20th century to those who suffered during experiments. “Whereas investigators who sickened or died while conducting research were memorialized as heroes and martyrs, healthy subjects and patients who suffered as a result of their participation received little, if any, attention.” (Hat tip: Neuroskeptic)
  • STAT News takes inventory from a few big names in aging and regenerative medicine on whether they think aging is a disease that can be cured. The University of California, San Francisco’s Leonard Hayflick is on the skeptical side. “There are many people who recover from cancer, stroke, or cardiovascular disease,” he said. “But they continue to age, because aging is separate from their disease.”