Thursday, January 25, 2007

DNA Discoverer Francis Crick High on LSD?

Nobel Prize genius Crick was high on LSD
when he discovered the secret of life

Copyright 2004 Associated Newspapers Ltd. Mail on Sunday (London)

August 8, 2004


FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced the double-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

The abrasive and unorthodox Crick and his brilliant American co-researcher James Watson famously celebrated their eureka moment in March 1953 by running from the now legendary Cavendish Laboratory in
Cambridge to the nearby Eagle pub, where they announced over pints of bitter that they had discovered the secret of life.

Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not
the Eagle's warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.

Despite his Establishment image, Crick was a devotee of novelist Aldous Huxley, whose accounts of his experiments with LSD and another hallucinogen, mescaline, in the short stories The Doors Of Perception and Heaven And Hell became cult texts for the hippies of the Sixties and Seventies. In the late Sixties, Crick was a founder member of Soma, a legalise-cannabis group named after the drug in Huxley's novel Brave New World. He even put his name to a famous letter to The Times in 1967 calling for a reform in the drugs laws.

It was through his membership of Soma that Crick inadvertently became the inspiration for the biggest LSD manufacturing conspiracy-the world has ever seen the multimillion-pound drug factory in a remote
farmhouse in Wales that was smashed by the Operation Julie raids of the late Seventies.

Crick's involvement with the gang was fleeting but crucial. The revered scientist had been invited to the Cambridge home of freewheeling American writer David Solomon a friend of hippie LSD guru Timothy
Leary who had come to Britain in 1967 on a quest to discover a method for manufacturing pure THC, the active ingredient of cannabis.

It was Crick's presence in Solomon's social circle that attracted a brilliant young biochemist, Richard Kemp, who soon became a convert to the attractions of both cannabis and LSD. Kemp was recruited to the THC project in 1968, but soon afterwards devised the world's first foolproof method of producing cheap, pure LSD. Solomon and Kemp went into business, manufacturing acid in a succession of rented houses before setting up their laboratory in a cottage on a hillside near Tregaron, Carmarthenshire, in 1973. It is estimated that Kemp manufactured drugs worth Pounds 2.5 million an astonishing amount in the Seventies before police stormed the building in 1977 and seized enough pure LSD and its constituent chemicals to make two million LSD 'tabs'.

The arrest and conviction of Solomon, Kemp and a string of co-conspirators dominated the headlines for months. I was covering the case as a reporter at the time and it was then that I met Kemp's close friend, Garrod Harker, whose home had been raided by police but who had not been arrest ed. Harker told me that
Kemp and his girlfriend Christine Bott by then in jail were hippie idealists who were completely uninterested in the money they were making.

They gave away thousands to pet causes such as the Glastonbury pop festival and the drugs charity Release.

'They have a philosophy,' Harker told me at the time. 'They believe industrial society will collapse when the oil runs out and that the answer is to change people's mindsets using acid. They believe LSD can help people to see that a return to a natural society based on self-sufficiency is the only way to save themselves.

'Dick Kemp told me he met Francis Crick at Cambridge. Crick had told him that some Cambridge academics used LSD in tiny amounts as a thinking tool, to liberate them from preconceptions and let their genius wander freely to new ideas. Crick told him he had perceived the double-helix shape while on LSD.

'It was clear that Dick Kemp was highly impressed and probably bowled over by what Crick had told him. He told me that if a man like Crick, who had gone to the heart of human existence, had used LSD, then it was worth using. Crick was certainly Dick Kemp's inspiration.' Shortly afterwards I visited Crick at his home, Golden Helix, in Cambridge.

He listened with rapt, amused attention to what I told him about the role of LSD in his Nobel Prize-winning discovery. He gave no intimation of surprise. When I had finished, he said: 'Print a word of it and I'll sue.'

Monday, January 22, 2007

NC Biotech Center Looking for New CEO

Dr. Leslie Alexandre to Leave N.C. Biotechnology Center
Monday January 22, 2:00 pm ET

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The North Carolina Biotechnology Center today announced that President and CEO Leslie Alexandre, Dr. P.H., has resigned to pursue new opportunities. To facilitate a smooth transition, Dr. Alexandre will continue working with the Biotechnology Center as needed until March 31.

"Leslie Alexandre has led the Biotechnology Center through a notable period of growth," said Sue Cole, chairman of the Biotechnology Center's board of directors. "She has helped enhance North Carolina's reputation as a 'biotech-friendly' state. Citizens will benefit in the coming years from the groundwork she has laid."

"Leading the Biotechnology Center since 2002 has been exciting and rewarding," said Dr. Alexandre. "I leave having accomplished what I set out to do when I arrived: strengthen the Biotechnology Center's programs, services and infrastructure and expand its reach to all corners of the state through the establishment of regional offices; secure greater State funding to support additional innovative research projects and company startups; increase life science company expansions and attractions by building high-impact partnerships with the N.C. Department of Commerce and other economic developers; and broaden global recognition of North Carolina as a leading place to conduct biotechnology research, development and commercialization."

Dr. Alexandre also led the creation of New Jobs Across North Carolina: a Strategic Plan for Growing the Economy Statewide through Biotechnology on behalf of Governor Mike Easley. "Our strategic plan has already had a very positive impact on our state, and I believe that its continued implementation will ensure a bright future for North Carolina biotechnology," she said. "The Biotechnology Center is well positioned to lead that future for years to come.

"I will miss my wonderful staff and the energy of the Biotechnology Center, but I will watch with pride as they continue to accomplish great things for the people of North Carolina," concluded Dr. Alexandre.

The Board of Directors of the Biotechnology Center will conduct a national search for the President and CEO position.

The Biotechnology Center, headquartered in Research Triangle Park with five regional offices throughout the state, is a private, non-profit corporation supported by the N.C. General Assembly. Its mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business and education statewide.

Wanted: Project Director

The Virginia Bio/Advanced Manufacturing Skills Initiative, a two-year national demonstration project that is funded jointly by the U.S. Department of Labor and a group of bio/advanced manufacturing companies in Virginia, is seeking a project director to lead and manage this significant economic development and workforce development initiative.

The project will establish certification and assessment standards for advanced manufacturing technicians; develop and operate an outreach, recruitment and pre-screening program; and design, build and operate an innovative training program to qualify advanced manufacturing technicians at an entry threshold of employability. The Project Director’s primary responsibilities will be to work with the project partners to create, develop and execute the project’s ambitious goals and schedule of activities. The Project Director will oversee the management and administration of the project activities and provide timely, accurate and informative reports and other required documentation. Requirements: a bachelors degree in business administration, project management or related field, a minimum of two to five years of previous work experience in advanced manufacturing, experience in private-sector supervision and project fiscal and performance management, and excellent interpersonal, speaking, presenting and writing skills. Preferred skills/experience: training and certification in Lean Six-Sigma, and experience in grants management and fund-raising. Competitive salary and benefits.

The project is being jointly led by the Virginia Biotechnology Association, the Virginia Manufacturers Association, and Training & Development Corporation, and will be managed out of offices in Richmond. Qualified candidates are invited to submit a cover letter with resume and references to ATTN: Search Committee/Project Director, Virginia Biotechnology Association, at For additional information about the project and the position please visit click here.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Italian Health Ministry Taps Insmed Drug for ALS

Insmed Incorporated, based in Richmond, Virginia, has been requested by the Italian Ministry of Health, to make its drug, IPLEXTM (rhIGFI/rhIGFBP-3), available to physicians in Italy to treat patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The request comes as a result of several Italian Court rulings ordering the Italian National Health System to provide the drug to specific ALS patients who have petitioned the Court. Through an agreement with Cephalon, which holds European patent rights to IGF-1 pertaining to the treatment of ALS, Insmed will be able to provide IPLEX to physicians in Italy. IPLEX will be distributed through an expanded access program, with Insmed receiving payment for drug from the Italian Health

ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness and loss of motor neurons. IGF-1 is a neurotrophic factor essential for normal development of the nervous system. In animal models and cell culture systems IGF-1 protects motor neurons and promotes muscle and nerve regeneration.

“We are very pleased that the Italian ministry has approached us to help in treating this devastating disease,” said Geoffrey Allan, President and CEO of Insmed. “We greatly appreciate the fact that Cephalon has collaborated with us in this effort. We hope that data collected from this expanded access program will be useful for the further clinical development of IPLEX for this indication,” he added.

In Italy, there are an estimated 1000 new cases of ALS per year. The Ministry of Health has tried for several years to provide IGF-1 to these patients and in doing so has contacted several pharmaceutical companies worldwide.

“We are very pleased that Insmed responded to our request and are willing to provide IPLEX,” said Carlo Tomino of the Italian Ministry of Health/AIFA.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Former FDA Comissioner Agrees to Plea Deal

Former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford would face a $50,000 fine and probation but no jail time as punishment for lying about ownership of illegally held stocks, according to a deal worked out between his attorney and federal prosecutors.

Crawford and the government both have agreed to the fine and some form of probation, though his ultimate sentence will be at the discretion of Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, according to sentencing memoranda filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington.

His sentencing is set for Tuesday.

Crawford pleaded guilty in October to charges of having a conflict of interest and false reporting of information about stocks he and his wife owned in food, beverage and medical device companies he regulated while head of the Food and Drug Administration.

The U.S. Attorney's office recommended the $50,000 fine, saying it would exceed the roughly $39,000 Crawford and his wife, Cathy, made from exercising options and in dividends from the forbidden stocks they held in the FDA-regulated companies.

The government also recommended Crawford be sentenced to probation and community service but skip any jail time, according to its sentencing memo filed with the court. Crawford could face up to six months in jail under sentencing guidelines.

"Given his early acceptance of responsibility, the defendant's actions merit the stigma of criminal convictions, a fine, and probation, but not incarceration," according to the government memo, signed by assistant U.S. attorneys Howard R. Sklamberg and Timothy G. Lynch. Sklamberg declined to comment Friday.

Crawford's attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, said her client agreed to pay the fine, according to her memo to the court. However, Van Gelder specifically requested unsupervised probation, which would allow Crawford to travel overseas for work. Van Gelder did not mention community service in her memo. She did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

In October, Crawford admitted to falsely reporting that he had sold or did not own stock when he continued holding shares in the firms governed by rules of the FDA, which is illegal. Beginning in 2002, Crawford filed seven incorrect financial reports with a government ethics office and Congress, leading to the misdemeanor charges.

Although Crawford lied about ownership of the stocks -- including under oath before the Senate -- government attorneys acknowledged there is no evidence he was "engaged in a concerted scheme to use his high office for personal gain."

Van Gelder, meanwhile, suggested Crawford's wife, secretary and financial adviser prepared and handled the inaccurate financial statements Crawford filed with the government. She acknowledged, however, that Crawford remained ultimately responsible for their accuracy.

Crawford, a veterinarian and food-safety expert, abruptly resigned from the FDA in September 2005 but gave no reason for leaving. He had held the job for two months, following his confirmation by the Senate.

Friday, January 19, 2007

More on the Eli Lilly Decision

Here is an article from the Washington Examiner...

Loss of Lilly’s name recognition a setback for region’s biotech industry
Katie Wilmeth, The Examiner
Jan 15, 2007 3:00 AM

WASHINGTON - The cancellation of the $325 million insulin manufacturing plant being built by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly in Prince William County is a clear blow to the Washington area’s growing biotechnology industry, but economic development officials said it shouldn’t hurt the region in the long run.

“Certainly it’s a setback,” said Jason Grant, a spokesman for the Prince William County Department of Economic Development. “The setback is you lose that internationally recognizable name. From a marketing standpoint, Lilly was very successful for us.”

The Washington region has been an up-and-comer in the biotech industry for a number of years, but it has struggled to make the transition from a research and development center to one with commercially viable products. The success of the industry hinges on securing more publicly traded companies and bringing in more drug manufacturing companies, said Tim Priest, executive director of the Greater Washington Initiative, the organization charged with promoting the region to potential business.

Lilly would have brought both. The Indianapolis-based corporation is one of the most high-profile pharmaceutical companies in the world and would have boosted the credibility of a region that has depended largely on start-up companies for its industry’s growth. But homegrown success stories like Gaithersburg-based MedImmune are few and far between.

Economic development officials were quick to point out that despite the loss of Lilly, the region — and Northern Virginia in particular — has grown significantly in the last few years. Northern Virginia has made a big push and invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build its biotech industry and catch up with Montgomery County, which is well-known outside the region as a hub for bioscience. George Mason University’s Prince William County campus is dedicated solely to life sciences, and the county’s Innovation Technology Park has attracted several new biotech firms. In Loudoun County, the opening of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s $500 million research campus, Janelia Farm, has brought international recognition to the region.

Lilly’s decision “is a really unfortunate development for the region,” said Mark Herzog, executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association. “It’s regrettable that they would choose not to fulfill the plans for the project in Prince William ... but certainly Prince Williams’ Innovation Park was not just about Eli Lilly. There’s quite a few major bioscience facilities that are either there right now or being developed.”

Lilly selected Prince William County for its manufacturing plant over 300 other possible sites in the U.S., said Priest, and the region has only matured since that 2002 selection.

“The reasons [Lilly] picked it are as solid today just as when they did in 2002,” Priest said. “This is a step back but they’re still growing.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Virginia Bioscience Podcast: Virginia General Assembly

VaBIO has posted their latest Podcast. The guests are members of the state legislature. In addition to biotech issues, Senator Stosch talks about taxes and transportation.

This edition of the Virginia Bioscience Podcast features several elected officials from the Virginia General Assembly discussing the role of state government in the development of the biotechnology industry.

This panel discussion was recorded on December 14, 2006 at the Virginia Biotechnology Association’s policy conference on effective state economic development policies for the bioscience industry. The panelists include three members of the Senate of Virginia: Walter Stosch of Henrico County, Ryan McDougle of Hanover County and Benjamin Lambert of the City of Richmond. Also speaking on the panel is Dr. John O’Bannon, a member of the House of Delegates representing a suburban district in Henrico County and Patrick Gottschalk, Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade. The moderator of the session is Hugh Keogh, the president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

The program starts with remarks by Delegate O’Bannon, followed by Senators Stosch and McDougle, then concludes with a question from the audience.

The focus of the program is what the state should specifically do to help expand Virginia’s biotechnology industry. The panelists also address major issues facing the legislature such as the transportation impasse and tax increases.

The program lasts approximately twenty minutes. The host of the program is Mark Herzog, executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Eli Lilly Cancels Virginia Insulin Plant

Eli Lilly and Co. said on Thursday it would stop construction of an insulin manufacturing plant in Virginia because it can meet expected capacity needs with existing sites.

In addition, Lilly said it would offer a voluntary exit package to up to 250 employees of 1,000 workers at the manufacturing site in Lafayette, Indiana.

The Indianapolis-based drug maker also said it would make "significant" new investments at a site in Kinsale, Ireland, where the company does manufacturing for biotechnology products.

Lilly said it would take estimated restructuring and asset impairment charges of about $155 million to $185 million. The company will take a fourth-quarter charge of 5 cents against earnings per share, it said.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Stem Cell Battle Looming at the General Assembly

Controversial bills will start session
Democrats want law to prevent ban on stem cell research
Saturday, January 6, 2007

Virginia Democrats will propose a package in the coming legislative session to specifically authorize embryonic stem cell research at state universities.

The package is an attempt to prevent a possible ban on studying embryonic stem cells, said a spokesman for Del. Brian J. Moran of Alexandria, the House Democratic Caucus chairman. It would lay the groundwork for Virginia legislators to someday authorize significant state spending to support the research, such as in California and Maryland.

Embryonic stem cells are master cells that grow into any type of body tissue. Scientists want to use them to develop new treatments for Alzheimer's, diabetes, spinal-cord injuries and numerous other diseases.

"The hope and opportunity that embryonic stem cell research provides should never be closed to thousands of Virginians suffering in silence," Moran said. "Now we have a real chance to cure the incurable, and it's morally wrong to close the door."

Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University already study embryonic stem cells. The proposed package would specifically authorize embryonic stem cell research within the Code of Virginia, said Moran's spokesman, Jesse Ferguson.

"So that there's no question, no ambiguity, no question that we can stick something in a budget bill to prohibit it," Ferguson said.

During last year's session, Republicans attempted to prohibit the research in Virginia by eliminating any state funding for any institution conducting embryonic stem cell research.

Moran's bill will be joined by a similar one from Del. Mark D. Sickles, D-Fairfax. Another from the Senate would allow the state to put money aside in the Christopher Reeve Stem Cell Research Fund to pay for such research.

"We need to make sure the commonwealth of Virginia leads the way on this cutting-edge research that will save lives," said Sen. Janet D. Howell, D-Fairfax, who will co-sponsor the Senate bill along with Sen. Creigh R. Deeds, D-Bath.

The package would provide safeguards to ensure that the stem cells were donated with informed consent without any inducement and provisions ensuring review of projects through an oversight committee.

The Senate bill would also ban "therapeutic" cloning of stem cells, Deeds said. The Code of Virginia, which bars cloning for reproductive purposes, doesn't ban therapeutic cloning.

Given that the General Assembly cannot add new money to the budget in this session and that all seats are up for election this fall, "This is all about politics," said political analyst Bob Denton of Virginia Tech. The proposal is more about posturing and partisanship than science, he said.

Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, agreed. "They're keeping the door open for a quick, dirty, ill-informed attack ad in November. That's all that does. It doesn't do anything for advancing science," said Marshall, who opposes embryonic stem cell research and leads the joint legislative subcommittee on medical, ethical and scientific issues relating to stem cell research.

Virginia's stem cell scientists, however, welcome the proposal.

"Clearly, this legislative effort will demonstrate that the state is taking the potential of regenerative medicine for curing debilitating diseases seriously," said Raj Rao, a VCU scientist studying embryonic stem cells as part of the school's focus on regenerative medicine.

University of Virginia stem cell scientist Roy Ogle said: "This should speed up progress and put [Virginia] scientists on more even footing with those in other states."

He added that even if therapeutic cloning, used to create self-perpetuating lines of stem cells from a cloned embryo, were banned, there are several major areas of research that Virginia scientists could pursue to better understand the cells, which were first isolated in 1998.

"I applaud the leaders in Virginia who are seeking to make the state a safe place to pursue the exciting area of stem cell research," said Sean Tipton, president of the advocacy group Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research. "Virginia was the birth place of in-vitro fertilization in the United States, and it's nice to see its leaders again stepping up to protect research that might alleviate human suffering."

Contact staff writer A.J. Hostetler at or (804) 649-6355.

This story can be found at:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

VaBIO Policy Video on "YouTube"

Here is the link to the "Virginia Biotech: Vision 2010" video on YouTube.

Comedian Will Farrell on Government Investment in Biotechnology

Will Ferrell giving his speech from the film "Old School" on "government investment in the field of biotechnology." James Carville also appears.