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
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.