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Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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December 12, 2012

Sue the Nobel Committee. Yeah, That'll Work.

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Posted by Derek

Rongxiang Xu is upset with this year's Nobel Prize award for stem cell research. He believes that work he did is so closely related to the subject of the prize that. . .he wants his name on it? No, apparently not. That he wants some of the prize money? Nope, not that either. That he thinks the prize was wrongly awarded? No, he's not claiming that.

What he's claiming is that the Nobel Committee has defamed his reputation as a stem cell pioneer by leaving him off, and he wants damages. Now, this is a new one, as far as I know. The closest example comes from 2003, when there was an ugly controversy over the award for NMR imaging (here's a post from the early days of this blog about it). Dr. Raymond Damadian took out strongly worded (read "hopping mad") advertisement in major newspapers claiming that the Nobel Committee had gotten the award wrong, and that he should have been on it. In vain. The Nobel Committee(s) have never backed down in such a case - although there have been some where you could make a pretty good argument - and they never will, as far as I can see.

Xu, who works in Los Angeles, is founder and chairman of the Chinese regenerative medicine company MEBO International Group. The company sells a proprietary moist-exposed burn ointment (MEBO) that induces "physiological repair and regeneration of extensively wounded skin," according to the company's website. Application of the wound ointment, along with other treatments, reportedly induces embryonic epidermal stem cells to grow in adult human skin cells. . .

. . .Xu's team allegedly awakened intact mature somatic cells to turn to pluripotent stem cells without engineering in 2000. Therefore, Xu claims, the Nobel statement undermines his accomplishments, defaming his reputation.

Now, I realize that I'm helping, in my small way, to give this guy publicity, which is one of the things he most wants out of this effort. But let me make myself clear - I'm giving him publicity in order to roll my eyes at him. I look forward to following Xu's progress through the legal system, and I'll bet his legal team looks forward to it as well, as long as things are kept on a steady payment basis.

Comments (21) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Biological News


1. Lodjuret on December 12, 2012 12:01 PM writes...

*Double facepalm*

Though, given that he's chinese, I unfortunately have to say that I'm not surprised. My girlfriend is chinese, and the status chasing and posturing among her relatives is pretty insane. And even if she's a fairly well-off AD, the fact that she's together with a faan gwai lo means she's low on the status ladder right now....

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2. Sili on December 12, 2012 12:14 PM writes...

Please be careful with the sweeping generalisations.


Has it really already been nine years since the NMR debacle.

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3. Hap on December 12, 2012 12:39 PM writes...

I wasn't aware that he had a reputation capable of being defamed. Suing the Nobel Committee for defamation seems like evidence that you don't have a defamable reputation. I didn't think it was possible, but it probably implies a status lower than that of people claiming they've been nominated (X times) for a Nobel Prize.

Memo to Xu's lawyers: get the cash upfront.

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4. Hap on December 12, 2012 12:45 PM writes...

And as for another in the category of "self-defeating legal maneuvers", how is Generex's case against Feuerstein working out for them?

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5. Morten G on December 12, 2012 12:52 PM writes...

I think I found it in the patent:
"Morphologically, the inventive compositions and methods may be used to activate dormant adult stem cells (ASCs) or to induce transformation of adult tissue cells into ASCs in vivo, as well as in vitro. Further, these inventive compositions may be used to induce tissue-specific morphogenesis of cells to render morphological changes of the cells, which may lead to dedifferentiation of cells, i.e., reversion of a differentiated cell to a non-differentiated cell (stem cell). In addition, they can also be used to inhibit toxicity of bacteria, presumably through modulation the structure and function of the bacterial membrane and alteration of the bacterial cell cycle. "

Credit to the Bioblog

Of course that's all dependent on the ability of beeswax and sesame seed oil to induce pluripotency in differentiated cells.

Oh there's more:
"Although not wishing to be bound by the theory as to the mechanism of action of the sterol compound in tissue repair and organ regeneration, the inventor believes that the sterol compound may play important roles in inducing morphogenesis of the cells by changing the fluidity and permeability of the cell membrane. As a result, many cell membrane-associated proteins such as kinases and phosphotases may be activated to stimulate cell growth. It is also plausible that dormant stem cells may be activated due to morphogenic changes in the membrane. Further, differentiated adult tissue cells may also be induced to undergo transformation into a non-differentiated phenotype, i.e., the process called "dedifferentiation". With the change of permeability of the cell membrane, other mitogens and regulatory molecules may be more readily uptaken by the cells so as to stimulate a balanced growth of a wide variety of cells needed for physiological tissue repair and functional organ regeneration. Moreover, expression and phosphorylation of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) may be stimulated, presumably due to activation of membrane-bound proteins during the morphogenesis process, thus further enhancing association of cognate cells to form a specific tissue, and assembly of cognate tissues to form a fully functional organ within the body."

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6. Pig Farmer on December 12, 2012 12:52 PM writes...

He's got about as much chance of being nominated for a Nobel as Erik Andrulis.
Perhaps he should try for an Ig Nobel instead.

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7. Sigivald on December 12, 2012 1:06 PM writes...

IF he had a lawyer involved, that lawyer is incompetent.

Because there is ZERO chance of a US (and this was filed in a California court!) court awarding a defamation claim for that.

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8. Doug Steinman on December 12, 2012 1:41 PM writes...

Sounds to me like a case of ego getting in the way of common sense. In my years in the pharmaceutical industry I have known many people whose egos far exceeded either their abilities or their accomplishments. I suspect that is true of Mr. Xu as well.

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9. luysii on December 12, 2012 1:54 PM writes...

In the late 80's, early 90's the group I was with bought one of Damadian's machines. As part of the sales pitch he came up and talked to our group. He was convinced that he had invented MRI. The machine was a disaster, and we fairly quickly (but not inexpensively) got rid of it.

FYI -- the wife of a classmate claims to have advised the Nobel committee on this point, saying that Damadian had no right to the prize. He's a former physics major, now a historian of science. I found this remarkable as her scientific background appeared to me to be rather minimal.

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10. newnickname on December 12, 2012 6:28 PM writes...

From Wikipedia on MRI: "In 1952, Herman Carr produced a one-dimensional MRI image as reported in his Harvard PhD thesis. In the Soviet Union, Vladislav Ivanov filed (in 1960) a document with the USSR State Committee for Inventions and Discovery at Leningrad for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging device, although this was not approved until the 1970s."

Telomeres were first proposed by Alexei Olovnikov, in a Russian language journal. His ideas slowly spread to the English speaking world. A share of the telomere Nobel Prize for Olovnikov? Nope: Greider and Blackburn get the credit.

Douglas Prasher cloned the GFP that made so much other research possible but got no share of the Shimomura- Chalfie- Tsien Nobel Prize.

It's happened before and it will happen again.

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11. dave w on December 12, 2012 7:07 PM writes...

What #7 said... First of all, it's not even apparent that a California court would have any jurisdiction - and then, the basis of the complaint is apparently outside the very specific scope of what the Civil Code provides for as a basis of a "defamation" claim - unless he alleges that the Nobel committee is claiming that he has been dishonest in business or engaging in criminal acts, or is infertile or infected with a "loathsome disease"...

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12. Molly on December 12, 2012 8:15 PM writes...

I don't think it's that crazy to question the integrity of the Nobel Prize Assembly, they have been accused of everything from racial bias to downright corruption!
People shouldn't have such immediate trust in these groups, at least look into them before scoffing at people who claim to have been treated unfairly or illegally.

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13. David C. on December 12, 2012 8:26 PM writes...

You need not look any farther than the very first comment in this thread to understand how much racism and cultural prejudices play into our decision making when evaluating an alleged victim. I think it is frighteningly clear that racism is alive and well even within the community that supports the Nobel Prize Committee. If this Doctor feels he has been done wrong and has been hindered by the assembly then of course he has the right to sue.

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14. FrankenWits on December 12, 2012 9:19 PM writes...

Man everyone knows the nobel peace folks are on the take just like everyone else. They have connections to all sort of huge pharmaceutical companies and the people they give awards to are almost always in bed with some major corporation. Wake up, this isn't about promoting peace or scientific development anymore, it's about giving bought publicity to corporate scientists to promote specific companies.

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15. jc on December 13, 2012 1:02 AM writes...

Referencing Conservapedia is not a good way to make it into the "not crazy" column.

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16. SMILES on December 13, 2012 1:54 AM writes...

#1 "Lodjuret":
It's really sad and a shame, to you also to the owner of this blog, to see much racism and cultural prejudices happen here again and again, whenever there is a layoff or downsizing or outsourcing topics nowadays. That shows nothing but your hate, weakness and incompetence and.... Be a man!

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17. sepisp on December 13, 2012 5:24 AM writes...

#13: You don't seem to understand what is racism. Culture is, after all, only a part of an individual's behavior. Criticizing another individual's behavior is not racism.

Let's assume this guy was an apple pie-playing, baseball-eating American. We would criticize him for excessive status-seeking and litigiousness just as well.

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18. anchor on December 13, 2012 11:54 AM writes...

Reminds me of Dr. Douglas Prasher, who I am informed made a seminal discovery in the area of GFP and someone else who took his idea were credited with Nobel Prize! Life is cruel. To his credit Dr. Prasher generously praised the people who got the Nobel and moves on. The moral-Dr. Rongxiang Xu, be generous and don't be mean!

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19. anchor on December 13, 2012 11:55 AM writes...

Reminds me of Dr. Douglas Prasher, who I am informed made a seminal discovery in the area of GFP and someone else who took his idea were credited with Nobel Prize! Life is cruel. To his credit Dr. Prasher generously praised the people who got the Nobel and moves on. The moral-Dr. Rongxiang Xu, be generous and don't be mean!

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20. a. nonymaus on December 13, 2012 12:53 PM writes...

To #5 Morten G:
This sort of ridiculousness is why I think that patents are worse than the lowest-tier pay-for-play journal. Given an arbitrary patent, I can read it and have no guarantee of whether or not it is fiction. Patents like this should not be awarded since they do not teach the claimed invention. Worse still, patents that do have descriptions that have any bearing to reality cannot be relied on to have that property because arrant omphaloskepsis like this is awarded. At least with low-tier journals, you know it's BS.

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21. anonymous on December 14, 2012 11:05 PM writes...

#17: It is racism when one makes sweeping characterization about one ethnic group. There is nothing wrong to criticise one for excessive status chasing but it would be racism if one were to say "no surprise, he is white (or whatever). It is deep-down racism when one takes time to think through what was said in #1 and still can not recognize it. Scientists are supposed to be objective.

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