I really had to take issue with this part of a recent post by Chris Mooney:
Applebaum also notes the following:Stem cell research is not, in fact, either illegal or unfunded: The federal budget in 2003 included $24.8 million for human embryonic stem cell research -- up from zero in 2000. Private funding of stem cell research, which is unlimited, runs into the tens and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars.
This, too, is revealing, although not in the way Applebaum seems to think. First, note that she can't put a figure on the amount of private funding that embryonic stem cell research is receiving. Neither could I when I tried to research the question recently. Nobody seemed to know. And that's precisely the point: We pay for science with taxpayer money so that we can have standards, accountability, fixed and transparent budgets, ethical regulations, and so on. That's why you can't leave research to the private sector. You won't know what the hell is going on.
Note also that Applebaum estimates that private funding is probably higher than federal funding in the U.S. That's striking: I'm told that in most biomedical fields NIH is the real go-to source for money, not the private sector. So this essentially shows just how differently embryonic stem cell research is being treated.
Hostility towards private research is something of a knee-jerk reaction for some people - but it makes no sense. It's the reaction of a control freak, of someone who is upset that things happen outside his or her sphere of influence. That the world turns without you is a fact of life and not a good reason to advocate centralized control. In addition, the complaints Mooney makes about the private sector apply just as well to publicly funded research. If anything, government efforts are far less accountable for failure, waste, ethics and safety than private initiatives, as even a brief perusal of recent history will demonstrate.
Medical research funding is approximately 30-40% public, 50-60% private for-profit and 10% philanthropic according to my research on the subject - it didn't take long to dig that up from studies on Fortune 500 research spending and NIH budget commentary.
The best way to ensure that funding for serious anti-aging research happens is to speak out - sound like someone who will spend money on working anti-aging medicine. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs hear that sort of thing; you can see the results in the field of regenerative medicine right now. Businessmen listen carefully for the demand for cures, and are working hard to make the products that you and I want.
In a centralized system we'd still be waiting in line for bread, never mind cheering on the advent of cures for Parkinson's, paralysis, diabetes, cancer, and many other age-related conditions.