Saturday, November 3, 2007

Talk by Dr Alan Colman

Meet Dr Colman, former Executive Director of the A*Star's Singapore Stem Cell Consortium, now academic and researcher who worked with the Roslin Institute in 1997 to clone Dolly the sheep. What with Singapore's positioning as a biotech hub, hardly anyone knows what they're doing with our moolah. KS invited him to do a presentation yesterday at Kamariah's house.
Post-human tech in a kampung hut, rain beating down about us. Nature, art, science. Below is an albino South African claw-toed frog: extremely useful for genetics research because it spawns whenever it's tickled.

In fact, in the midst of the lecture on the raw basics of cloning and stem cell tech, the stuff that sticks out most is the systematic idiosyncrasy of the science world: animals named dolly millie christa alexis carrel dotcom snuppy prometea xena and the politics behind naming a goat after a French eugenicist, Fidel Castro's appeal to clone a cow that yielded three times more milk but who'd been dead for ten years, the bad science of journalists with Photoshop. Art meets life science: Ira Levin publishes "The Boys From Brazil" about 64 clones of Hitler, adapted into a bad movie starring Gregory Peck; Colman himself is soundly trounced in a debate with university philosophers about whether we'll ever be able to know everything about what how our bodies work. And the idiosyncrasy of the man himself: madly Mancunian, clumsy at ice skating but joyous in his newfound grace through tropical scuba-diving, married to a monozygotic twin.

A few words from that afternoon:

“Dying people are desperate. Most of the royal family of Saudi Arabia have heart valves that come from pigs.”

"I actually gave up cloning some time ago. I came here because I wanted a change and I was spending huge amounts of money. Government money, other people's pensions. Venture capital money, I can be comfortable spending that... but to continue spending at that level I had to move to Singapore."

"Armadillos always have quadruplets who are genetically the same."

On fears that science will one day clone Hitler:
"I don’t think Hitler needed that kind of technique to make mentally cloned people... What Mancunians really fear is cloned Liverpool fans."

On the early death of Dolly from a viral disease:
"I worked in Scotland for four years and I can tell you Scotland is not a healthy place to live. Most people over 40 don’t have their own teeth. They have deep fried pizza there. They have deep fried Snickers bars.”

"Kidney transplantation caused a huge uproar when it was first invented. Putting an organ from a dead person into someone else... when the first test tube tube, baby Louise Brown, was born in 1979, the scientist and doctor were ostracised. Now over 1,000,000 people have been born because of this. It's a strange philosophical question of whether it’s better to be alive or not alive."

On his research into cures for heart disease and diabetes:
“Don’t believe anyone who says this treatments are around the corner. It’ll be around 10, 15 years before they’re effective.”

"I am wary when scientists say, 'This will never happen."

"In Italy, the cloning of animals is illegal. And a friend of mine cloned a cow, whom he named Galileo. And so there was a possibility Galileo would go to prison again."

"I think Italy is the greatest country in the world, I want to retire there. "

"No I don’t read science fiction, but I used to before man landed on the moon. That spoilt it. For me, nothing surpasses the human imagination."

No comments: