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Friday, November 17, 2006


More on science and the blockade of Cuba

More news from the Biotechnology Conference being held in Cuba that I wrote about two days ago, the one which a dozen U.S. scientists were prevented from attending:
Results from recent clinical trials made with the humanized monoclonal antibody HR3, obtained by specialists from the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM), show promise in the possibility of using this antibody in the treatment of head and neck tumors.

Dr. Agustin Lage, director of the CIM, broke the good news at a press conference during the opening session of an Immunotherapy Workshop taking place simultaneously with the Biotechnology Havana 2006 convention.

Dr. Lage said that test results received in trials held in Cuba and other countries such as India, China and Germany, showed a significant reduction in the malignant lesion of certain brain tumors (almost all of them non-treatable by surgery ) and of pharyngeal carcinomas.
But, you say, can't the U.S. scientists just read the scientific paper, and gain as much benefit as from going to the conference? If you think so, you don't understand scientific conferences. There's the opportunity for scientists who normally just read each other's papers to actually talk to each other, and give each other an idea which might lead to even more significant results, perhaps even leading to a fruitful collaboration. There's simply hearing about something which you just might not have read about, either because you just can't read everything that is published in your field, or because it was something that wasn't exactly in your field, or because it wasn't published at all. Negative results, for example, rarely result in scientific publications, yet they just might be the key piece of information you need to move ahead with your own work. Or something someone did in an unrelated field might give you an insight you wouldn't have otherwise had. And there's just the stimulation of going to a conference and hearing about all sorts of interesting work which makes you vow to redouble your own efforts.

And all this works both ways, of course. The Cuban scientists (and others from around the world) would have benefited from the American scientists, and the Americans would have benefited from the Cubans. And Americans, and Cubans, and the people of the world, would have been better off, as science took one more step or many steps, large or small, towards alleviating the suffering of the world's people.

That's what the blockade - not just a blockade of trade but a blockade of knowledge - is doing.

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