A day for the people, and the animals too

This year's BIO Internation Convention centre is big - expect to get a little lost the first few times you enter the labyrinth - and the first day is always a little crazy, with 22,000 + delegates in one location that's just part of the fun. But down to business: today's breakout session tracks included bioethics and communications, some of the most people focused aspects of the industry. Up first, a session that looked at managing patient expectations in (experimental) clincial trials covered the gamut from screening potential candidates and dealing with the desperate and dying and their families, to navigating the "fragmented healthcare system" (Peter J Rosen). Emil Kakis spoke of the need to provide both hope and reality, empathy and factual information. Imagine choosing a single child to take part in an experimental trial from a family with 3 children all very ill with a rare disease. Next up - a full house for a session dedicated to human/animal embryos - their creation & regulation (aptly titled, it's life jim, but not as we know it). Some pretty heavy science from Dr Lyle Armstrong from the UK University of Newcastle on Tyne. Their work with cows seemed tame compared to the description of a legal process to test male fertility by allowing human sperm to penetrate mouse eggs, which drew a loud "yuck" from one of the other panel members. Suffice to say, the UK is gearing up to officially regulate admixed embryos (which will be predominantly human). Then a thought provoking presentation from Dr Nigel Cameron, President of the Centre for Policy on Emerging Technologies. Dr Cameron covered the difficulty in finding community agreement on new techniques in science, and noted a new type of debate which is raising strategic issues. He asked: Are these debates about freedom of science, morals, politics, or who makes the decisions?