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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Naples News Article on Jackson Labs

Naples News has an article about the Jackson Labs story. Jackson Labs is a biotech company which is considering building a laboratory in Ave Maria, Florida. Apparently, the land that they are considering for building used to be partially owned by Tom Monaghan, though it seems as if he sold his interest to Barron Collier. (If I'm getting the facts wrong, please correct me.)

Anyways, some interesting excerpts from the article:
Maine-based The Jackson Laboratory is working out the details and seeking state support to build a research complex on roughly 50 acres southwest of Ave Maria town and university.

"If they were to locate here I think there would be very considerable benefits to the entire area," said Nicholas Healy, president of Ave Maria University. "They will bring well-paying jobs and so on. It will help real estate in the town."

While officials with the nonprofit lab group say they don't perform research with embryonic stem cells, the foundation's Web site advertises workshops and conferences educating other scientists on the use of stem cells for research. Embryonic stem cells are derived from the earliest stage of human life, just a few days after an egg is fertilized, and usually are harvested from embryos left over after in vitro fertilization treatment.

"Obviously, there are issues that arise whenever you hear the term 'biomedical research,'" Healy said. "Some people have concerns over that. From what we have been told, Jackson labs does not do human embryonic stem cell research, which from the point of view of Catholic moral teaching, would be problematic (if they did)."

Healy said he doesn't have a problem with Jackson's involvement in education on stem cell research.

"There is nothing wrong with having seminars or workshops," he said. "We could have a seminar here on it. The Catholic Church is not afraid to engage issues in science and technology."

But the lab is realistic in understanding the organization may not have all of the same world views as its potential neighbor, Jackson Vice President Charles Hewett said.

"There are probably some philosophical differences that will emerge," Hewett said. "We certainly are very thoughtful about the subject, but not willing to rule out doing human embryonic stem cell research."

Ave Maria University founder Tom Monaghan, a frequent contributor toward right-to-life and anti-abortion issues, is a partner with Barron Collier Cos., in the development of the town and surrounding lands. Gable said he went to Monaghan with the Jackson Laboratory proposal last year to get Monaghan’s blessing on the project.

"Obviously, because Tom is our partner, when this opportunity was brought to our attention last year, we went to our partner and said, 'This is what we want to do, is it something you're comfortable with?'" Gable said. "He went and did his due diligence, researched it, and said, 'Go ahead with it.'"
If the Vice-President hasn't ruled out doing human embryonic stem cell research, then was Monaghan's due diligence that thorough?

Also, in the article, Healy doesn't sound too educated on what exactly occurs at Jackson Labs. Would Healy be fine with hosting this upcoming Jackson Labs seminar on the AMU campus? It's more than mere educational slide shows; there are laboratory-based demos, and if any of these labs use human embryos, I suspect that would be a big no-no from a Catholic ethics perspective.

Finally, what kind of work does Jackson Lab do anyways? In another comment thread, I noted that it looks like one thing they do is create mice cells specifically designed to serve as "platforms" for human embryo engraftment. In so doing, it appears that Jackson Labs is specifically intending to support the immorality of human embryo research. Am I wrong in thinking that this is similar to a factory in the business of making condoms, specifically intending to support the immorality of contraception?