Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Observing a shake-up

Another one bites the dust.

Okay, not literally, but Roger Alton has nonetheless decided to
leave the fold of The Observer after nearly a decade at its helm, and more than 30 years within the wider Guardian group. I was having a quiet pint in the Sekforde Arms with a few Farringdon journos when the message bleeped through that he'd left. And while the official Media Guardian write-up linked to above is done up all respectful tribute stylee, the whisperings behind the scene are saying that his departure was, well, somewhat on the acrimonious side. It seems the two main behind-the-scenes gripes at the Guardian Media Group is the rapidly approaching advent of 24-hour production (job losses ahoy) and the ongoing efforts to merge the Guardian and the Observer into a single paper. Without going into possibly libellous detail, itwould appear that Alton was being fairly vocal in his opposition to both moves. More detail in this piece by Roy Greenslade in today's Evening Standard, the title of which beautifully showcases the limitations of print pieces in accomdating last-minute breaking news. More details were to be found at the Coach and Horses, behind Grauniad HQ, but such revelations will only become known to me tomorrow, once my mole wakes/sobers up (Mole! Facebook me some details, will you!).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


One story that got far less media attention than it deserved today was the launch of Stem Cells for Safer Medicines (SC4SM), a joint venture between some of the UK's leading national medical research groups and three of Europe's biggest pharmaceutical companies (GSK, Roche and AstraZeneca). The group is going to carry out research that could lead to drugs being developed in a completely different way: one that would require a lot less animal testing, and would lower the risk of people suffering liver failure and other horrible side-effects when participating as volunteers in clinical trials.

A development backed by the pharmaceutical industry that could potentially please the animal rights extremists AND be good for broke students paying their way through uni with medical research payoffs? Whatever next?! Of course it's all theoretical at this point - the research might not work, it might all come to nothing. But the fact is that the wheels have been set in motion at long last. And to be honest, Britain is on of the few places in the world that it could happen. Over in the States, Bush vetoed a bill that would see federal funding given to stem-cell research programmes back in February, which is at least the second time his administration has refused to back similar legislation.

Of course I'm not blind to the possibility of ethical mismanagement or abuse in such research, but the whole "if we do this now, who knows what we'll be doing in 10 years' time?" argument is really pretty tired at this point, and if a proper set of guidelines is established and maintained, then surely the good that will emerge from stem-cell research could revolutionise drug development and contribute to new treatments that are safe and effective reaching the market faster? This is really a world first, and I think Britain should be proud of having the courage and the vision to make it happen.