Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dave O'Connor: "Sad and heartbroken."

One of the most insidious accomplishments of the vivisection industry has been the corruption of science journalism. This happened because life science writing programs are housed at universities that benefit from having articles about their research published in mainstream media. Students have access to local scientists for interviews and practice their writing under the tutelage of accomplished writers who have already written favorably about the use of animals in research. The indoctrination is probably subtle, but the effects are seen everywhere one looks.

A recent example is NPR's report on David O'Connor's experimental infection of rhesus monkeys with the Zika virus, the disease de jure. The science writer seems to want her readers to have a good impression of O'Connor:

"O'Connor says that he can feel a moral need to do this kind of animal research and at the same time feel 'sad and heartbroken' at what the work entails. 'I don't think those two are mutually exclusive,' he says. And then she quotes him again: "I've come to the conclusion that there is an ethical and a moral imperative to study the most relevant animal model to get the most impactful and valuable data."

What a guy.

But O'Connor's lament and ethical justifications should be examined in light of his previous work rather than an appeal to a "public health emergency" during which, apparently, anything goes. That's pretty much the same excuse that was used to justify the torture at Abu Ghraib prison. In both cases, better, more useful information was and is available through less hideous means.

O'Connor says, according to NPR's science writer, that he feels "sad and heartbroken" about infecting monkeys with the Zika virus. He should have added that he feels that way all the way to bank. That would have been a little more honest. So far, in his Zika studies, O'Connor seems to have infected three young males and one pregnant female. At the same time, public health officials and medical doctors have been studying hundreds, maybe thousands of women and their babies. The history of medicine gives a good notion of which body of research is likely to provide benefit.

Looking at O'Connor's publishing history on PubMed, it appears that he has been using and killing monkeys since at least 1999; I suspect even he may not know how many monkeys he has infected and killed, but his career rests squarely on their corpses. Over the ensuing years he has made millions of dollars infecting and killing monkeys. This is his (partial) NIH grant history while at UW-Madison. They all use monkeys:

2009-2013: DEFINING THE IMPORTANCE OF CD8+ T CELL BREADTH IN SIV/HIV PROTECTIVE IMMUNITY. Total project funding amount: $3,241,340.

2011: NHP MHC GENE DISCOVERY AND TYPING TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT. Total Funding: $6,569,785.

2005-2013: IMMUNOGENETICS OF PRIMATES USED FOR BIOTERROR RESEARCH. Total project funding amount: $4,406,491.

2006-2007: SIV-SPECIFIC CD8+ T-CELL IN MAURITIAN CYNOMOLGUS MACAQUES. Total project funding amount: $507,040.

2008-2015: ADOPTIVE TRANSFER OF IMMUNITY ELICITED BY ATTENUATED HIV VACCINES. Total project funding amount: $5,433,316.

2009-2013 EXPLORING IN VITRO AND IN VIVO T CELL IMMUNITY TO SIV WITH MHC-IDENTICAL MACAQUES. Total project funding: $1,694,161.

2016: DEFINING SOUTH AMERICAN ZIKA VIRUS SUSCEPTIBILITY AND PATHOGENICITY IN ADULT AND NEONATAL NONHUMAN PRIMATES. $263,233. This project is a subproject of his 2015 grant GBV-C-MEDIATED PROTECTION FROM AIDS IN HUMANS AND GBV-C/SIV CO-INFECTED MACAQUES which received $665,879. Total funding for the grant in 2015 and 2016 was $929,112.

2014-2015: IDENTIFYING COMMON T CELL RESPONSES TO MAJOR PATHOGENS IN RHESUS MACAQUES. Total project funding: $1,354,157.

On top of that, he also receives $186,311 in salary from the university.

If you visit his lab's website, you'll see that he loves selfies. He does not appear to be someone wracked with sadness or suffering from a broken heart. No, he seems quite happy, giddy even at times, which makes sense given the fact that in his line of work, the only thing that matters is getting papers into journals -- no matter the actual low value of the information in the papers for the purported beneficiaries, taxpayers. Check out the videos on his website.

Postscript, after posting this, O'Connor got rid of the his selfies and and completely revamped his website.
Watch the video here.

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