Funding: Clarifications to Harriman

Gregory R. Harriman gregoryh at
Wed Jan 3 13:24:39 EST 1996

In article <96002.104936U27111 at>, <U27111 at> wrote:

> This is a very good example of the type of waste which goes on in
> our field.
> Yes... special mouse colonies are *very* expensive to maintain -

> I've seen PIs who purchase ANM or SCID mice and house them with
> regularly mice.
> I've seen PIs, which due to the high cost of the mice, use sick
> mice in their experiments.

> I've seen PIs inject ANM and SCID mice with known contaminated
> (with MHV) frozen tumors into them and jeopardize the ENTIRE colony
> (of which the other PIs sharing the facility doesn't know what he
> is doing).
> And lastly, I've seen housing facilities which do not require
> periodic genetic profiles of human tumors being worked with in
> these types of colonies... to assure 'clean' tumors are being
> worked with and handled.  Thus, who's to say drug studies being
> preformed... that effects noted really have nothing to do with
> possible viral contaminations of these tumors/cells (from being
> grown or worked with in probable sloppy labs as well)?
> With the types of monies involved in such projects (and of which
> the outcomes of various drugs studies may depend upon whether the
> treatments would then be used on human subjects)... you would
> really think that people would make sure what they were doing was
> valid and not a waste of time, energy and monies!

     Your indictment of the PIs you've worked with before, while
interesting, is irrelevant to your initial assertion that the expense of
maintaining animal colonies is "a very good example of the type of waste
which goes on in our field".  

     To the extent that your experience is representative of what goes on
in biomedical research in general, it is an example of "how" research
funds can be wasted by bad investigators.  It does not address the
question of whether knock-out mouse colonies are a waste of research
funding.  You provide nothing in your commentary which addresses that
issue.  The relevant question is whether the information gained from
experiments with these mice will provide knowledge, insight, etc. into
medical diseases, such that the benefit outweighs the risk.

     Try to keep the two issues separate, because the differences have
very important implications.  If you are truly interested in seeing the
quality of biomedical research improve (as you seem to be from previous
posts), then you should be able to make a distinction between bad science
being done and determining the right amount of research funding.

Greg Harriman

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