CEO has all the answers to media's cloning questions

WORCHESTER, MA: Biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) walked

cautiously, but confidently, across a moral minefield when it announced

that it had successfully cloned human embryos for use in combating

diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and AIDS.

As the news spread around the globe, the solitary spokesperson for the

biotech company, CEO Dr. Michael West, made a whirlwind of television

appearances beginning with Meet the Press, the Today show and Good

Morning America.

What's more, West did all of this without the help of an agency, and his

name and number were listed on a press release as the sole contact for

the media. Aided by Robin Menard, an executive assistant at the

business, he planned a busy schedule of newspaper and television


No sooner had the discovery been announced than ACT was roundly

denounced by conservatives, ethicists, and world figures like the Pope

and President Bush. The latter told journalists at a press conference,

"We should not, as a society, grow life to destroy it."

West admits that he was stunned by the media explosion that occurred,

but maintained that the privately funded company wasn't motivated by

self-interest when it announced the results of its study in the Journal

of Regenerative Medicine. Rather, he said, ACT simply wanted to share

its findings with the scientific community.

"There has been speculation that we were trying to influence this thing

and that, but we simply wanted scientists to have a look at our data,"

West told PRWeek. He admitted that all of the media attention was

overwhelming, but that he planned to continue to communicate the ACT


"We think the miracle of cloning has an important application in

medicine to make cells and tissues for patients with life-threatening

diseases," said West. "We call this 'therapeutic cloning'. It is

distinct from reproductive cloning - that is, the cloning of a human


The ACT announcement sparked a copycat claim from Clonaid, a human

cloning company that was founded by the Raelian Movement, a cult that

claims that life on Earth was created scientifically through DNA and

genetic engineering by a human extraterrestrial race. Unlike ACT,

Clonaid, which operates a laboratory outside the United States, wants to

clone human beings to transfer their memories into the new cloned

bodies. The group offered no scientific proof to back up the claim that

they had successfully cloned human embryos.

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