Monday, 15 October 2012

Doug Sipp's Stemedica Post Meets the Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism's Definition of Pure Propaganda

The Pew center has been trying to clean up journalism by establishing a set of standards that seem to elude our friend Doug Sipp. One of these guidelines is interesting:

Journalists rely on a professional discipline for verifying information. When the concept of objectivity originally evolved, it did not imply that journalists are free of bias. It called, rather, for a consistent method of testing information--a transparent approach to evidence--precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work. The method is objective, not the journalist. Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment, all signal such standards. This discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment
In the Stemedica post, Doug commits as many journalistic sins as a heathen in the holy land. For example, he cites that he has interviewed...wait for it...exactly zero sources about his conspiracy theories. What Doug Sipp does do is to pull all of the biased info he can find that will support his conspiracy. One such example is his focus on a Bermuda Sun article. Here Sipp completely forgets to mention that a retraction was issued by the Bermuda papers [from a Stemedica Press Release]: 

“We feel relieved and vindicated”, said Maynard A. Howe, PhD, Vice Chairman and CEO of Stemedica.  “We were shocked that professional media outlets would use erroneous facts and unnamed sources to attack us simply because they have major differences with our Licensed Treatment Center partner, and the country’s Premier, Doctor Ewart Brown. We were in the process of taking legal action against both papers and are now withdrawing this legal action based upon their apology.” 
Stemedica retained international law firm Reed Smith Richards Butler.  Their team, (senior partner Michael Skrein, working with Emma Lenthall and Eleanor Chapman), hired top libel silk Andrew Caldecott QC.   
In their apologies – both prominently displayed in the November 9th  editions of The Mid-Ocean News and The Royal Gazette - each newspaper said in part, “…Unfortunately, the first of those articles described the new facility as a ‘sham’ and referred to it as a ‘money laundering expedition’…we now accept that these statements were erroneous.  We apologize unreservedly to Stemedica for any offense that we may have caused them.”

Why would Doug Sipp leave this important fact out of a piece on Stemedica?
In fact Sipp has libeled Stemedica so many times, that I have been provided a letter sent to Sipp by the company's president where he attempts to set the record straight:


What's the definition of propaganda using the Pew Center's guidelines? Two words, one ending in pp.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

High Times meets Doug Sipp's Blog

High Times meets Doug Sipp's Blog

In our trip down memory lane of the smear campaign bloody horrible farce known as Doug Sipp's blog, a little detour is interesting. In his post "High Times in Stem Cell Land", Doug attacks Beike Biotechnology, a stem cell clinic in China. Why launch an investigative piece  full frontal assault on a Chinese operation? China has now eclipsed Japan as the economic engine of Asia. As I've discussed, the patents held by Sipp's bosses are very late to the stem cell party, so the adoption of stem cells by physicians must be slowed down so they are able to cash in properly exploit the business opportunity. China is fast becoming the world's biggest potential prescription drug market cash cow and is literally next door to RIKEN, so Doug's bosses can't tolerate a China where the party is in full swing before they get their gilded invite. 

In this post Doug introduces Beike biotech, a company that has treated tens of thousands of patients with stem cells. A little research on the company's web-site shows that rather than the home of the Chinese "Dr. Evil" they just secured a coveted American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) accreditation and are working with the US company Thermogenesis on state of the art cord blood banking facility (the largest on earth). They have also received ISO9001 certification for their stem cell quality control systems.


When Doug is done roasting poor competitor Beike over the Japanese hibachi coals, he chronicles the hand off of Beike's ex-China holdings to "Alex" Moffet and Steve Marshank. Here Doug moves into full  smear investigative mode, making the highlight of the post and it's title Marshank's long ago pot bust. Doug brings up a large load of the wacky weed that was intercepted by the US DEA and that was part of the then entrepreneurial Marshank's herbal operation. In all lack of fairness, after skewering Marshank (and his guilt by association business partner Moffet), Doug does admit that the case was thrown out. However, in true believer Sipp style, Doug leaves out some rather important details, as they would damage Doug's thesis libel.

In actual fact, the case against Marshank was thrown out in spectacular fashion. Doug likes the LA Times as they have published a few of his stem cell rags investigations on various targets of his latest professional hit jobs writings, but here the facts as laid out in the Times kills Sipp's credibility. 

Lawyer Ensnared His Client, Judge Says : Misconduct: She quashes indictment, saying prosecutors showed 'utter disregard' for ethics in using attorney to supply information about drug suspect.

Calling it a "shocking tale" of deception and government misconduct, a federal judge threw out a major indictment Tuesday against an accused drug dealer whose eccentric Los Angeles drug lawyer turned against him and pressured him into becoming an informant...
Patel found that the lawyer stood to profit if Marshank were convicted and his assets seized. The judge concluded that Minkin both supplied information used to indict his client in July, 1990, and persuaded other clients to turn against Marshank.

By using his lawyer to ensnare Marshank, Patel said, the prosecutors showed an "utter disregard for the government's ethical obligations." In throwing out the charges, Patel held that the government violated Marshank's 5th Amendment right to due process and his Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer.

Patel also invoked her "supervisory power" over federal prosecutors and held that the case had to be thrown out to "preserve judicial integrity and to deter future government misconduct."
"Judicial integrity is severly threatened when professional ethical and court rules such as those involved here are flouted by the government," Patel wrote.
So while Doug paints a picture of the new Beike owners being pot smuggling scum businessmen and getting off on a technicality abuse of justice, the truth is rather far from it. The case was such an example of blatant prosecutorial misconduct that it's actually been featured in quite a few books:

It's also featured as an abuse of process case in legal tomes such as "Constitutional Law":

I seem to remember that a certain American President had something to do with being a Constitutional Law scholar...

More importantly, you Americans have basically legalized wacky backy and Marshank was accused of distributing the stuff in California (now the most high pot friendly of the US states). This is like going after an old man for being a bootlegger during the American prohibition era. In fact Marshank's miscarriage of justice is featured in this book:

You have to notice the by-line, "An Adult Approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century". If only a certain ex-trucker adopted an adult approach to blogging...

Monday, 17 September 2012

Much More than Minimally Manipulative

These next few blogs will get back to Doug Sipp’s carelessness accuracy and why any reporter who attempts to use Sipp’s blog as a source for anything others than giggles has a serious ethics problem (which Sipp himself can’t help with as the ex-trucking supervisor’s manual is mum on bioethics).  One of Doug Sipp’s recurrent whipping boys appears to be the ICMS, a physician professional organization. I must admit that when I first read these Sipp posts, his attacks on ICMS made little sense. After all, Sipp espouses oversight over stem cell use and the only professional group trying to place guidelines around and restrictions on stem cell use was ICMS. 

International Cellular Medicine Society

So why attack the ICMS? Money. The iPS cells being hawked by Doug’s bosses at RIKEN are late to the proverbial stem cell soirĂ©e. An entire professional organisation founded to treat patients responsibly using their own stem cells is an incredible threat to the patent interests of Sipp’s paymasters, who must delay the use of any stem cells until they have had a chance to cash in.

First, what is the ICMS? From their web-site, it’s clear that they are a physician professional organisation.  Unlike the rouge clinics Sipp loves to point to, ICMS has actually established written guidelines for a right and wrong way to use stem cells in patients in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki (oops, Sipp never took that course…) They have also required accredited clinics to collect data on patients in a registry. So what’s wrong with ICMS? They represent a massive threat to Sipp’s puppet masters.

To get a better sense of the who, what, where, and why for these ICMS related posts I actually did something that our ex-trucker turned pretend science policy guru never did; I made sure Sipp’s supporting links actually supported his vitriol and I e-mailed the people involved to check accuracy. Low and behold, Sipp’s precision is like a pub drunk walking the bobby line at closing time.

Sipp first sets the scene of the his ICMS “freak show” by claiming that it's headquarters are nowhere . To do this, he uses a Google street view off the ICMS Facebook page which shows what appears to be an empty lot and claims that’s where the world headquarters of ICMS are located. Could a physician professional organisation actually receive its mail in an empty lot? Well, turns out Sipp didn’t look too hard. The address on the Facebook page he quotes does indeed show this scene, but it doesn't take an advanced science to degree to figure out something is amiss. Turns out that Facebook's geolocation software can't handle a PO box, as it's not an actual physical address, so it has picked a random road in Salem, Oregon. What happens if you…I don’t know, actually see if there’s an address on the official web-site (  rather than trusting Facebook as a source for narcissistic mirror peering journalistic integrity? Well if you did that, you’d get a different “picture”. When one looks up where PO Box 4432’s physical address is located on the Black Book service it’s actually:

The Real Location of the ICMS PO Box...
SALEM, OR 97302

It didn't take a degree in rocket science or bioethics to find the actual physical place where ICMS has it’s PO Box.

After setting the falsified place where his orgy of inaccuracy will begin (an abandoned lot a US Post Office), Sipp then libels digs his teeth into the individuals who founded ICMS. Let’s take these one by one:

Michael Freeman, M.P.H., Ph.D.-Freeman legitimately holds a Ph.D. in Epidemiology and a Master of Public Health degree. No pretend bioethicist 4 year English major here. Freeman is an professor at Oregon Health and Science University and has a CV 14 pages long that makes Doug’s lack of education “life experience” look really bad (Freeman states he has total 130 publications on his OHSU site ).  Let’s compare the real professor versus the fake bioethicist. A search of the American National Library of Medicine lists 41 publications for Freeman, most actual research studies. Doug Sipp has 16 publications, pretty much all of them marketing ads for RIKEN opinion pieces about the horrors of stem cell tourism.  So why is our ex-trucker who his falsifying credentials as a researcher calling out a real university professor?

Sipp loves to dig up dirt from people’s distant past and claim it has some bearing on their current credibility and Freeman is no different. Here Sipp cites a 1990's insurance dispute between then chiropractor Freeman (before his M.P.H. and Ph.D.) and the state of Oregon quasi-governmental insurance program. Sipp hyperlinks a court case as proof positive that Freeman is a Charlatan. However the link doesn’t actually point to a case where Freeman was found to be doing anything wrong, it’s actually a link to the verdict exonerating Freeman! So what Sipp would have the reader believe is proof positive of Freeman’s guilt, is actually the opposite. I guess understanding legal documents is also not in the ex-trucking supervisor's handbook. 

Christopher Centeno, M.D.- Centeno is a physician founder of ICMS. Centeno is a double boarded M.D. who was actually also awarded a graduate degree, unlike our ex-trucker. He also has far more publications than Sipp, again most focused on actual clinical research rather than sales jobs editorials. His attack of Centeno focuses on his court case against FDA. While Sipp claims that this is some sort of attempt at “deregulation”, what he hasn’t yet told his readers is that two former FDA commissions have agreed with Centeno’s position on stem cell regulations and published their thoughts in the Wall Street Journal (see ex-commissioner 1 and ex-commissioner 2). In particular this group of ex-FDA employees contains an M.D./ Ph.D, an M.D., and attorney. So far no ex-trucking supervisor editorials have been accepted by the Wall Street Journal, but I'm sure this science policy chief marketing manager is trying hard.

Sipp then goes onto attack Centeno based on the written testimony of an expert hired by FDA to support it's position that the orthopaedic stem cell therapy used by Centeno and colleagues represents a new drug. Here Sipp uses an old trick, only showing the side of this story that supports the smear campaign to colour his attack argument. In this case he points out the testimony of George Muschler, who himself is like a ticking time bomb about to explode all over Sipp's parade. Why? For this I will rely on a statement by Centeno given to me and a post by Centeno on Sipp's site.

[Centeno]-"Muschler was commenting on our early case study research and comparing that to an FDA drug trial. There is no way to compare a physician trying different IRB approved remedies on individual patients with a massive FDA drug trial. Eventually, this early research led to two large papers, one n=227 and n=339, both better research than Muschler himself ever published on his own competitive device. Turns out Muschler was quite the hypocrite..."

Dr. Muschler's Trojan Horse/Competitive Device-Can you say "conflict of interest"?
What does that mean? What competitive device? For this I will use Centeno's comments on Sipp's blog:

"Dr. Muschler established his own standard for what constitutes effective research. Unlike our procedure, where we went through two years of an IRB where we didn’t charge patients, Dr. Muchler’s competitive procedure that spawned his “Cellect Device” was used by surgeons solely based on a study in dogs (i.e. without any human use or IRB oversight). This is despite the fact that under current FDA rules, the device more than minimally manipulates a bone graft sample by allowing stem cells to attach to the sample, as its stated goal is to alter the biologic characteristics of that bone graft. After that, it was used in thousands of patients before a single human trial was performed. When that study was finally published, it wasn’t an RCT with a placebo; instead it was a comparison trial similar to the one we published on our procedure (see"

Centeno also pointed me to a Sipp source for this blog post, "Dr." Amy Price, a woman who turned out to be quite bonkers. 

Amy Price in University Garb after not Actually Graduating from any University with anything similar to a PhD

Meet Amy Price, "PhD". Amy was a patient volunteer for the Spinal Injury Foundation (SIF), a non-profit meant to educate patients about spinal injuries that was begun by Centeno and Freeman. Over a several year period, Centeno donated several hundred thousand dollars to the organisation and took no salary nor did he benefit in any way from the organisation. The organisation had a web-site that was ultimately taken over by Amy Price, "Ph.D". While Doug Sipp's posts point to the archived versions of the site, mine points to the contemporary version, where Amy Price's smiling face greets us (see above).

The way to understand this former patient volunteer for the non-profit is to use court documents where she sued both SIF and ICMS (can you say, "Axe to grind?"). For example, Amy holds herself out as a PhD, which she trumpets on her Linkedin business page. With that in mind, reviewing her deposition in this case says it all:

Q [SIF Attorney] Okay. Could you tell me your educational history and what degrees you hold?
A [Amy Price] I can't recall.
Q Okay. Do you have a Ph.D. from Oxford?
A No.
Q Okay. Do you have a Ph.D. from any  university?
A I have a Ph.D.
Q Okay. From what university do you have a Ph.D.?
A I'm -- at this point, I don't recall. It's 14 many years ago.
Q Okay. Isn't it true, in 2011, you received the Ph.D. from -- in psychology from -- an Oakland University?
A No.
Q Okay. Did you have a Ph.D. from Oakland University?
A No.
Q Do you have a Ph.D. from King's College?
A I don't recall the names of all the colleges and things. I'm sorry.
Q Okay. Where did you have a Ph.D. from?
A I don't recall.

Doug Sipp's star source, for "breaking open" the ICMS "Freak Show" is quite a freak herself. She claims to have a Ph.D. (even more brashly than our ex-trucking supervisor), but can't seem to remember where she got that degree (a cereal box top?). So you spend a large chunk of your life pushing your Ph.D. thesis rock uphill and you can't remember where that happened? If you can't remember where you got your Ph.D. can anything that you say possibly be accurate? Is this the definition of "knackered"? 

So what did the judge have to say about the "case" she brought against SIF about the same time she leaked all of the unreliable "reliable" information to Sipp? The judge found against her for abuse of process and made her pay all costs and allows SIF to pursue punitive damages.

In conclusion, rather than delving even deeper to Doug Sipp's ICMS rubbish, it's likely best for Sipp just to end it here. It's also a good idea to end with a statement from the Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism:

"Journalists rely on a professional discipline for verifying information. When the concept of objectivity originally evolved, it did not imply that journalists are free of bias. It called, rather, for a consistent method of testing information--a transparent approach to evidence--precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work. The method is objective, not the journalist. Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment, all signal such standards. This discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment. But the need for professional method is not always fully recognized or refined. While journalism has developed various techniques for determining facts, for instance, it has done less to develop a system for testing the reliability of journalistic interpretation."

Huh...looks like the ex-trucker's manual is also mum on source verification, but the Pew Research Center sure isn't...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Bioethics Exam Doug Sipp Never Bothered to Take

1. What is the importance of "Helsinki" in bioethics?

A. It's a great place to buy swanky modern furniture
B. A great place to chat up blondes and ski
C. The site of a major World Medical Association bioethics panel

2. Based on Helsinki, doctors who responsibly use unproven care in attempt to help patients who have no other options are:

A. Criminals
B. Entrepreneurs
C. Good doctors

Now that you’ve seen Doug Sipp’s dodgy qualifications to be a “unit leader” of a one man science policy unit at RIKEN, let’s explore what this ex-trucker impersonating a bioethicist knows about bioethics. A recurrent theme through Doug Sipp’s slag off's and interviews is that stem cell clinics are evil mostly because they treat patients outside of clinical trials or if a trial exists, because they charge patients. While Doug Sipp has exposed a few questionable clinics, he’s also gone after many that seem to try hard to do things right. Case in point are his posts on the Regenerative Medicine Institute in Tijuana. Here he lam basts a clinic with multiple clinical trials listed on the US National Institutes of Health web-site because they use unproven therapies and charge patients for medical care as part of the study. This would of course mean that all of the major bioethical panels of the twentieth century would surely frown upon this type of activity? Right? Wrong. Looks like Sipp didn’t read these texts in the bioethics course he never took.

For this next info I have to thank one of my readers. Turns out this blog on the real Doug Sipp is getting quite a bit of Internet play and readers have been providing me with information. There are two major bioethical panels that have been convened both internationally and in America. The international panel was known as the “Declaration of Helsinki” and was convened by the World Medical Association. The last update to the document occurred in 2008 in Doug’s backyard, Soeul Korea. This panel produced a number of statements, but this one applies to Sipp’s criticisms of clinics who treat patients with stem cells:

“35. In the treatment of a patient, where proven interventions do not exist or have been ineffective, the physician, after seeking expert advice, with informed consent from the patient or a legally authorized representative, may use an unproven intervention if in the physician's judgement it offers hope of saving life, re-establishing health or alleviating suffering. Where possible, this intervention should be made the object of research, designed to evaluate its safety and efficacy. In all cases, new information should be recorded and, where appropriate, made publicly available.

So let’s break this down. The major international bioethical document of the 20th century clearly defines that when proven therapies don’t exist that will help a patient’s disease, it’s OK for physicians to use unproven interventions. Isn’t that Sipp’s point? That’s it’s “unethical” to use “unproven” interventions? Did Doug skip this class…oh that’s right, Doug never enrolled in the class in the first place!

If we apply this standard to the RMI clinic, the diseases listed being treated are those without “proven interventions”. Sipp has not exposed that proper informed consent of the patient is neglected, so no black mark there. Finally, all that is required for the last piece is that the physician’s judgement supports that the treatment offers “hope of saving life, re-establishing health or alleviating suffering”. I’m sure if you ask these physicians they would believe that the therapies they are offering have this hope of helping patients. In addition, this group has made their treatment an object of research. So why is our trucking supervisor who is playing a bioethicist attacking this clinic? Note that there is nothing at all written about charging patients, which only becomes inconvenient in a placebo trial, as who wants to pay money to get a fake treatment?

What is interesting is that Doug loves to pimp that only placebo controlled trials are acceptable for new therapies. However, Helsinki is rather mixed on the use of placebos in research:
“32. The benefits, risks, burdens and effectiveness of a new intervention must be tested against those of the best current proven intervention, except in the following circumstances:
·         The use of placebo, or no treatment, is acceptable in studies where no current proven intervention exists; or
·         Where for compelling and scientifically sound methodological reasons the use of placebo is necessary to determine the efficacy or safety of an intervention and the patients who receive placebo or no treatment will not be subject to any risk of serious or irreversible harm. Extreme care must be taken to avoid abuse of this option.
From the standpoint of Helsinki, the preferred method of research is to test a new therapy against the standard therapy or a proven therapy. The whole use of placebos in research is a bit of a side exception and can only be used where no current proven therapy is available. In fact, the concerns of Helsinki are opposite that of Sipp. They state that “extreme care” must be taken to avoid the abuse of placebos as their use may harm patients.

So how did Sipp get these basic bioethical principles so backward? How have the science news organisations who have listened to Sipp or quoted Sipp failed to do even basic homework on whether what he’s saying was accurate? For Sipp’s part, he just doesn’t know any better, basically establishing a new bioethical standard that is the most likely to land him a promotion and one that supports the financial interests of his bosses at RIKEN who want to delay use of other types of stem cells until they can cash in on iPS cells.  

Monday, 10 September 2012

Do Doug's bosses Approve of What He's Doing?

Now that you've seen Doug's lack of qualifications to comment on anything in science bioethics, how has RIKEN treated his absolute absence of any formal science training? They have promoted him! Doug's page at RIKEN lists that he is a "Unit Leader". Leader of what? The "Science Policy and Ethics Studies Unit", which includes one member, Doug Sipp. How did Sipp, a man with about as much science education as an out of work thespian with a four year degree driving a black hack in London end up the leader of a one man stem cell bioethics unit?

Prior to this change in title and the creation of the one man unit on bioethics, Doug was a manager in the Office for Research Communications in the Stem Cell Section at Riken. He was basically a marketing guy who went from selling magazines at Nature to selling RIKEN. So with no training, education, or academic achievement of any kind other than publishing a few opinion pieces and writing a hate speech blog, Doug was "promoted" to be the leader of a one man science bioethics unit. What could have been the reason for basically handing Doug a career in bioethics for which he had no training? Well, he was good at protecting the financial interests of the RIKEN stem cell unit! In addition, what major news organisation would listen to a marketing manager? They will listen to someone impersonating a scientist with bioethics training. In addition, many of these reporters likely believe Doug is the American ex-pat, Ph.D. "leader" of some massive "unit" at some little known research centre in far away Japan and not the uneducated one man show shilling for RIKEN and attacking competitive technologies. 

So do his bosses know what Doug does? You be the judge.

Science Policy and Ethics Studies Unit
Douglass SIPP
Unit Leader
Douglas SIPP
Research Areas
The field of stem cell research has received a great deal of attention due to the combination of fundamental scientific interest, therapeutic promise, and commercial potential it entails. But it has also been surrounded by legal, social, and ethical tensions across a broad range of issues, from the research use of human embryos to the optimization of pathways for the translation of basic research into clinical applications. We will seek to compare different science policy approaches to these issues and identify regulatory frameworks best suited to the development and promulgation of stem cell applications. We will further explore social and ethical perspectives on the translation of human stem cell research, with an emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region.
Research Subject
  1. Stem cells and regenerative medicine in the Asia-Pacific region.
  2. Global issues in unregulated stem cell treatments
  3. Regulatory issues in developmet of stem cell clinical applications

Friday, 7 September 2012

Doug Sipp's CV: Ex-Trucking Supervisor Impersonates a Bioethicist

Thanks to a reader of the blog, I have been forwarded Doug Sipp's CV. Like Doug, I won’t fully fact check this information. If you’re a reporter, you may want to ask Sipp directly to confirm or refute this CV, but based on what I can find on-line most of it looks about right.

Doug is frequently vague when asked about his background. Many reporters have claimed that he’s a “researcher” with the implication that he hold a Ph.D. or that he conducts stem cell research. Others merely point to the fact that he works for an academic entrepreneurial research centre as proof that he must be an academic himself. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Take a look:

Date of Birth:  01/04/1965 (47 years old)

-RIKEN CDB /2002 – Present /Manager, Office for Research Communications / Kobe,Hyogo, Japan (conducts stem cell policy and ethics research & manages the Office for Research Communications (actually called ‘Unit Leader’)

-Nature Japan (periodical) / 2000 – 2002 / Freelance Translator followed by Marketing Manager

-Arkitek Studios, Inc. (multi-media software development company) / IndependentContractor
-NEC (consultant)

-Quality Rock Products, Inc.  (Trucking Supervisor)

Education:  B.A. in English / RUTGERS -THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NJ -NEW BRUNSWICK / Major Course(s) of Study:09/02/1987 to 05/15/1991

Ouch! This is pretty embarrassing! First Doug Sipp majored in English and has no advanced degree whatsoever. He also has no science education. No degree or training in bioethics.

Doug loves to poke fun at people’s past misfortunes or how they came into stem cells with very little direct training or qualifications. For example, he once pointed to some poor bugger's adolescent pot bust as proof of bad character. He has also ridiculed legitimate Ph.D.'s and the like for their prior jobs outside of stem cells. So I now get it, Doug Sipp's past is so embarrassing that the best defence is a good offence! Trucking supervisor? Crikey!

Since Doug loves to pull Google street views on addresses, this is the site of his first job:

Did he work somewhere down that beastly dirt road? Did any of these jobs from the one down this dirt path to NEC have anything to do with stem cells? Cell biology? Medical research? Clinical research? Medicine? Bioethics? Anything?

Finally he went to work for Nature (which has something to do with stem cells), but he wasn’t even a science writer, but a translator and later a marketing manager? Marketing manager? Yes, he was merely some guy trying to sell magazines.

Maybe the blokes at RIKEN were daft enough to give Doug his first big break into the world of stem cells, but any reporter that quotes him now needs to place this biographical sketch somewhere in the article:

Mr. Sipp holds a four year English degree from Rutgers and has held a panoply of odd jobs like trucking supervisor, consultant, software independent contractor, translator, and marketing manager. He specifically holds no degrees in science or bioethics whatsoever. His opinions are therefore to be respected about as much as the guy down the street working at the local pub. He did tell us that he has great “life experience”.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Chinese cemetery operator invests in stem cell anti-aging?

Let's begin our review of the real Doug Sipp's misinformation machine with his post on a company that decided to invest in stem cells. The post begins with a discussion that Zmay Holdings "plunked down" around 40 million USD for a stem cell technology that involves transforming normal cells into stem cells. However, it's not long before the reader witnesses Sipp launch into an attack on what sounds like pure quackery. For instance, Sipp details that the company is investigating the use of various Chinese herbs to transform these cells. These include bizarre Chinese concoctions like Leech extract and Deer antler. Leeches? Sounds a bit Dodgy, right? After all, Doug authoritatively says, "Forty mil is big money by any measure, especially for a technology that has not been described, or even mentioned, in a peer-reviewed journal - at least not that I could find in English." So is this true? Well not if you spend just a few minutes digging. 

Turns out that there are legitimate scientific research studies behind the use of all of these herbs in stem cell research. For example, Korean mistletoe lectin regulates the self-renewal of mesenchymal stem cells. There are actually four studies on how ginseng effects stem cells. Deer antler is actually a scientific case study in mammalian regeneration (for example, how stem cells rebuild the body after injury). How about leech extract? There are actually 82 studies in the US National Library of Medicine on the search term "leech extract" and it's uses in medicine. In fact, the compound Hirudin, which is what makes up the active ingredient of "leech extract" is a powerful blood thinner. In fact there are 12 research papers under the search terms "stem cells" and "Hirudin". So Doug lied "stretched the truth" when he said he couldn't find any mention of these substances in a peer reviewed journal, as anyone performing even a simple Google search would have been directed to any one of these legitimate studies. 

If real scientists from all over the world are working to see how these natural substances impact stem cells or how they work, why would Doug publicly denigrate a company that wants to follow that lead? Why would Doug fib about the fact that there is research on all of these compounds? Follow the money...

Doug mentions inventor Xiongbin Lin. Who is this? Turns out another simple Google search turns up that he holds 5 patents on stem cells that could be competitive to Doug's bosses Riken's  patent portfolio on stem cells. This one in particular is directly competitive with Riken's patents on iPS cells.

So now Doug's attack on the Chinese company diversifying into stem cell biotechnology comes into focus. Doug is protecting the financial interests of his bosses. As you'll see, as we dissect more of Doug's posts, this seems to be Doug's motivation for many of his attacks. The moral of this little story is do your homework before relying on Sipp as a source for accurate information.