Members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and other scientists have written a Open Letter to News Editors requesting them not to give Dr. Zavos any coverage on his work on cloning.

Cloning: the British Conspiracy

By Prof. Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, Ed.S., Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Reproductive Physiology & Andrology, University of Kentucky (current CV: http://www.zavos.org/drz.htm); Director, Andrology Institute of America (http://www.aia-zavos.com); Associate Director, Kentucky Center for Reproductive Medicine & IVF; Founder of the Zavos Organization, website: www.zavos.org and E-mail: zavos@zavos.org.


It has recently come to our attention that, in a letter dated January 21, 2004, members of the British scientific community, as well as, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) made a request to News Editors in the UK not to give press coverage to our cloning efforts and to "reconsider the prominence given to repeated claims by certain scientists that they have cloned a human being, including those made by Dr. Panos Zavos last weekend". The signatories of this letter include: Prof Richard Gardner( FRS - Chair, Royal Society Working Group on Stem Cell Research and Cloning), Prof Cohn Blakemore (Chief Executive, Medical Research Council), Prof Julia Goodfellow ( Chief Executive, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), Lord May of Oxford (President, Royal Society), Prof Robert Winston (Imperial College), Dr Simon Fishel (Director, Centres for Assisted Reproduction), Suzi Leather (Chair, HFEA), Prof Chris Higgins (Director, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre), Prof Alison Murdoch (Chair, British Fertility Society), Dr Wolf Reik (Head, Developmental Genetics Programme, Babraham Institute), Prof Robin Lovell-Badge (Head of Genetics, MRC National Institute for Medical Research), Dr Harry Griffin (Deputy Director, Roslin Institute) and Dr Sue Avery (Chair, Association of Clinical Embryologists). This letter, as well as, the accompanied press releases may be viewed at

During my most recent press conference in London, UK on August 31, 2004, I made an effort in responding to the false claims made by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and these other scientists regarding my very own personal track record and my scientific accomplishments. I would like to address these false claims one by one.

1. "...none of those involved have produced a shred of evidence to substantiate their assertions"

It is shocking to all of us at Repromed International that these individuals can call themselves scientists and not be aware of the scientific accomplishments nor are they current with the latest publications and scientific presentations made by our scientific team. If they had done any "homework" at all on their part, they would have been aware of our publications, which include the following:

  • Zavos PM: Human reproductive cloning: the time is near. Reproductive BioMedicine Online 6, 397–398, 2003.
  • Zavos PM, Illmensee K.: Development of bioassays using the bovine model to measure the efficiency of SCNT in humans. The 59th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, San Antonio, Texas, October 11-15, 2003.
  • Zavos PM, Illmensee K.: Human somatic cell nuclear transfer into enucleated bovine oocytes: a potential bioassay. The 19th Annual Meeting for the Society of Reproductive Medicine and Endocrinology, Bregenz, October 17-18, 2003.
  • Illmensee K: Cloning: Chance and risk. The 5th World Conference of the International Association of Private Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinics and Laboratories (A-PART), Shibuya, Tokyo, October 23-25, 2003.
  • Illmensee K., Zavos PM: Development of an interspecies-specific bioassay using the bovine oocyte model to evaluate the potential of SCNT in humans. The 10th Annual Meeting of the Middle East Fertility Society, Beirut, December 10-13, 2003.
  • Illmensee K, Levanduski M, Zavos PM: Development of an interspecies-specific bioassay using the bovine oocyte model to evaluate the potential of SCNT in humans. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, 2004 (Accepted but withdrawn and re-submitted).
  • Zavos PM, Illmensee K: First Embryo Transfer of a Cloned Human Embryo. Reproductive BioMedicine Online (Currently under journal peer-review).
  • Zavos PM, Illmensee K: Human Reproductive Cloning: The Post Mortem Effort. (Currently in preparation).

I find it very hard to believe that these "British scientists" were not aware of any of these papers and reports prior to signing this letter under false pretensions that we have not provided any proof about our work in the past. I can only but come to the conclusion that they are deliberately trying to mislead the public and the news media and misrepresent the facts!

2. "reconsider the prominence given to repeated claims by certain scientists that they have cloned a human being, including those made by Dr Panos Zavos last weekend"

I, nor anyone from our team of experts, have ever claimed to have cloned a human being. During the press conference that was given on January 17, 2004 in London, I announced that "We transferred the first cloned embryo into a 35-year-old woman. Since it has not been two weeks since we transferred the embryo, we are waiting for the results of the pregnancy". No cloned human was conceived or born. How could anyone that is serious enough, think for a moment of making such statement, unless their next of kin are the Raelian Group that can make such statement with no basis upon which they can not show any proof?

3. "By ignoring the well-established processes for scrutinizing new scientific developments in favour of making unvalidated announcements directly to the media, these individuals have shown that they are more interested in publicity than advancing science."

These "prominent" scientists are the ones who have ignored well established processes for scrutinizing new scientific developments, in that they have failed to review our work that has been published in a peer-reviewed British scientific journal that is moderated by the highly respected Professor Robert Edwards, who created the world’s first test-tube baby. Furthermore, we have and continue to present our work at international scientific meetings all over the world and which include, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Middle East Fertility Society, the Society of Reproductive Medicine and Endocrinology and The 5th World Conference of the International Association of Private Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinics and Laboratories (A-PART). The proceedings of these International Conferences were published in the form of scientific abstracts and in English for anyone that cares and wishes to review.

4. "Dr Zavos came here exclusively to get publicity. As with previous similar media announcements, he was richly rewarded, leading almost every news bulletin on television and radio throughout the day."

I have held press conferences regarding cutting edge technologies that we are developing in the field of cloning and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and I do have all intentions of doing so in the future. I feel that these new advances should be made public in order to better inform the public of the current status of these technologies. After all, the British Medical Association has stated that "public hostility to human reproductive cloning may be based on an illogical transient fear of a new technology". I willingly bear the responsibility to inform and educate the public in what we are doing, so that they can better understand the technology and decide for themselves whether they are for or against reproductive cloning. It is a legitimate contribution to a legitimate and important debate.

If I have received news coverage, it is only because there is a demand and a thirst for information in this field by the public. This indicates that the public does want to know what is happening and what strides are being made in this field. I have and continue to receive inquiries for participation at International forums and gatherings to present our data and this goes to show that our work is important and the public and the scientific societies throughout the World desire and wish to hear us present our results.

5. "We fear that the disproportionate coverage given to these stories convey the impression that fertility scientists in general are engaged in the race to clone the first human. In fact the opposite is the case. Mainstream fertility experts are united in their opposition to this work and Parliament has banned reproductive cloning in the UK."

What is frightening here is the fact that these "prominent" British scientists wish to dictate to the World as to what the free media can and can not cover because they worry about a "disproportionate coverage" of the subject that they do not find palatable and they ethically and morally do not agree. What a pity!! Furthermore, I, along with our team of experts in the field of reproductive medicine and science are aware of all the laws of all countries regarding any of the actions that we initiate and carry out. It is of utmost importance that these "prominent" British scientists should understand that mainstream fertility scientists are not limited only to the United Kingdom and that the laws of Parliament are not applicable worldwide. There are numerous scientific groups worldwide comprised of excellent scientists who are currently involved in the development and refining of technologies in somatic cell nuclear transfer and other similar technologies. This is not a race to clone the first human being. I have said on numerous occasions that it is more important for us to do this right than to claim to be the first ones to clone a human being. We are either going to do it right or not do it at all!

6. "We welcome the fact that the media has given time and space to scientists to rebut these claims and all of the signatories to this letter have made themselves available to the media on previous occasions to assure the public that this is bad science done by discredited scientists."

As with any scientific debate, we welcome the comments of our peers and to express their opinions and to have a healthy exchange of ideas. However, it is very apparent that the signatories to this letter have not done their due diligence in researching the facts before they give an opinion to the media. Instead, they give a comment based on their own personal opinion rather than one based on facts and the research that currently exists. As you may know, I have debated some of those "prominent" British scientists at various locations in this World but the clear majority do not believe in debates but monologues (http://www.zavos.org/library/Sunday%20Herald-Debate%20not%20monologue.htm). What an irony!!

I also take great offence to being called a " discredited scientist" and that I am involved in "bad science". I personally have published hundreds of scientific publications in various peer-reviewed journals, as well as, having overseen many research projects all over the world in my last 26 long years of my active involvement in reproductive medicine (http://www.zavos.org/library/library_scientific.htm). I have also taught many graduate students that have progressed to succeed in their own right. I have personally initiated new technologies in the field of reproductive medicine and I continue to do so. I personally own four US patents (http://www.zavos.org/library/library_patents.htm) and have developed and continue to strive to pioneer new technologies every day and to make this world a better place for all human kind (http://www.zavos.org/library/library_firsts.htm). I would like to know what these "scientists" call bad science and who exactly has "discredited" me. I am an active member of various academic and professional societies and am considered an expert in my field by my peers. Being discredited would imply that I have been cast out from the scientific community which is a gross misrepresentation. They should be ashamed of themselves for making such false and inaccurate statements.

7. "Yet despite the lack of evidence forthcoming on each occasion, we are still expected to respond each time a bogus claim is made."

Once again, the "lack of evidence" is solely due to these scientists failing to do their homework and keeping up with the facts and published information. Had these scientists taken the time to review the scientific literature and stay current with the latest publications and scientific presentations, they would have been aware of our publications and reports. We have published and continue to publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals! It appears that these "leading British scientists" either do not do their due diligence by reading and getting informed before they offer an opinion or, even worse, they choose to lie and misrepresent the facts as they have done systematically well in the released letter. Why should they speak the truth, anyway?

I personally take offense to the term "bogus claims". Our claims are not bogus and our achievements are well documented. As a dedicated and true scientist, I have never made a "bogus" claim in my life and in my professional career of more than a quarter of a century. My work and that of those that I am involved in and with, have always been scientifically sound and have been subject to Institutional Review Board approval, throughout those years and we do not intend to change it now. We do not go ahead and do science in a haphazard fashion. For our work to be presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meetings, in San Antonio, Texas, is nothing else but evidence that our work is credible and worth being presented at the most elite group of reproductive medicine experts in the World, today. That is not evidence that we presented "bogus claims" at these meetings or similarly at other scientific gatherings. As further proof, we have also permitted a documentary team to follow our work every step of the way, periodically reporting to the world the real and honest results of our efforts. This team from Peter Williams Television, a British group, is the very same team that documented the birth of the first ever in vitro fertilization (IVF) baby in the world, Louise Brown, 26 years ago, and of the first IVF baby in the United States, Elizabeth Jordan Carr. We are delighted to have a British group documenting the facts through the eyes of their cameras. Are these "leading British scientists" willing to do the same?

These scientists and representatives of the HFEA have chosen to appeal secretly to newspaper editors not to give coverage to the important work that we are doing. This is an underhanded effort to undermine the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

The British Establishment may believe that they can get away with this underhanded attack and conspiracy on my professional integrity and that of our team. In the United States, such a letter would have been against the very basis of our own US constitution. Britain is known as the home of fairness and freedom of speech. The signatories to such letter should be ashamed at what they had done, what the represent and, more importantly, in the way in which they had done it. If they were so confident in their views, why did they not send a copy of this letter directly to me as well, since the letter was labeled as an "Open Letter" and I was cited in this correspondence by name.

It is this underhanded secretive behavior that makes one ask the following question. Since these scientists want to exert their influence on the news media and to prevent the free dissemination of information to the public that has the right to know, could they also exert the same type of influence on scientific journals and their editors not to publish work that has been carried out by our scientific group? Is it coincidental that, after the press conference that I gave in London on August 31, 2004, the editor of the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics (JARG), Norbert Gleicher decided on his own not to allow the publication of a scientific paper of ours, after it had undergone critical peer-review and was accepted for publication and at the time of the press conference, was already in press? The rationale given by JARG was that I had disclosed to the public the content of the scientific paper, when in fact, all I had done was to refer to the article as an example in setting the record straight that we do publish in peer-reviewed journals. It is very clear to us that the decision by Gleicher has been purely political and we do not rule out the influence or pressure that other "scientists" may have placed on the Journal and Gleicher himself. Is this an attempt to silence us and the work that we are doing? Who is playing God here? Although I have sometimes been accused of "playing God", I have never stooped to these levels of underhandedly trying to suppress the freedom of speech of others.

It is very sad to see science being manipulated in the way that it has by these so-called ethical and righteous "British scientists". We will continue to make the strides that we are, in all our endeavors and will continue to keep the public and the scientific community informed about our efforts in a responsible and logical way. This is what our conscious dictates to us and this is what we will do.


See the latest publication in Sunday Herald of Scotland
http://www.sundayherald.com/45015

 

ALSO: NOTE TO ALL INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS:

Upon reviewing this letter you may publish it in its entirety in your publication or if you wish to be granted a personal interview by Professor Zavos to further clarify these issues addressed in this letter you may send us an e-mail (zavos@zavos.org) to place your interview request. Thank you.


Human Reproductive Cloning: The Time is Near (Panayiotis Zavos; RBM Online, 2003)

Toward scientific discussion of human reproductive cloning (Joe Leigh Simpson; RBM Online, 2003)

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