Jon and Teddy Yewdell join the TWiV team to talk about their careers, their research, and the problems with biomedical research.
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Show notes at microbe.tv/twiv.
Jonathan Yewdell, Chief of the Cellular Biology Section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has written a book entitled Truth Wins: A Practical Guide to Succeeding in Biomedical Research.Â
Dr. Yewdell is well known for his presentations about the problems with biomedical science, a subject we discussed on TWiV 208: The Biomedical Research Crisis.
Here are two excerpts from the book:
The joy of making discoveries is the beating heart of a successful scientific career. The power of the scientific method to reveal truths about nature through iterative rational experimentation and interpretation inspired the title of the book.
The book is mostly intended for young people either contemplating a career in biomedical research or those who have already embarked on the journey. I hope that others might find it interesting and useful in understanding how scientists tick and what they do all day.
Scientists for Science are confident that biomedical research on potentially dangerous pathogens can be performed safely and is essential for a comprehensive understanding of microbial disease pathogenesis, prevention and treatment. The results of such research are often unanticipated and accrue over time; therefore, risk-benefit analyses are difficult to assess accurately.
If we expect to continue to improve our understanding of how microorganisms cause disease we cannot avoid working with potentially dangerous pathogens. In recognition of this need, significant resources have been invested globally to build and operate BSL-3 and BSL-4 facilities, and to mitigate risk in a variety of ways, involving regulatory requirements, facility engineering and training. Ensuring that these facilities operate safely and are staffed effectively so that risk is minimized is our most important line of defense, as opposed to limiting the types of experiments that are done.
In contrast to recombinant DNA research at the time of Asilomar in 1975, studies on dangerous pathogens are already subject to extensive regulations. In addition to regulations associated with Select Agent research, experimental plans on other pathogens are peer reviewed by scientists and funding agencies, and the associated risk assessments are considered by biosafety experts and safety committees. Risk mitigation plans are proposed and then considered and either approved or improved by safety committees.
If there is going to be further discussion about these issues, we must have input from outside experts with the background and skills to conduct actual risk assessments based on specific experiments and existing laboratories. Such conversations are best facilitated under the auspices of a neutral party, such as the International Union of Microbiological Societies or the American Society for Microbiology, or national academies, such as the National Academy of Sciences, USA. We suggest they should organize a meeting to discuss these issues.
Scientists for Science have a range of opinions on how risk is best assessed. However, maintaining dogmatic positions serves no good purpose; only by engaging in open constructive debate can we learn from one anotherâ€™s experience. Most importantly, we are united as experts committed to ensuring public health is not compromised and the reputation of science in general, and microbiology in particular, is defended.
Please visit the Scientists for Science website to view the supporters of this initiative.
On episode #282 of the science show This Week in Virology, the TWiV team reviewsÂ a meta-analysis of clinical trial reports on using Tamiflu for influenza, and suggestions on how to rescueÂ US biomedical research from its systemic flaws.
You can find TWiV #282 at www.microbe.tv/twiv.