Conn and Parker accuse us of taking quotes out of context
In Drs Greek’s first book Sacred Cows and Golden Geese, they quoted an article in the September 21, 1997 Atlanta Journal Constitution in which Dr. Mark Feinberg, a leading AIDS researcher stated:
To make an AIDS vaccine, we really need to know more about the basic human immune system and how it works. They knew next to nothing about it when they made the polio vaccine, but that's not going to work here. We need to understand more about how the immune system recognizes and deals with HIV antigens. Clearly few, if any, people can deal with HIV once they're infected with it; nobody that we know of has ever cleared the virus from their bodies after infection. Somehow we have to demand that the vaccine be better than that. I think the way of doing that is doing studies on human beings at very early stages of the development of vaccines to test whether certain ideas work; then you go back to the laboratory to modify them and then back to human beings. What good does it do you to test something in a monkey? You find five or six years from now that it works in the monkey, and then you test it in humans and you realize that humans behave totally differently from monkeys, so you've wasted five years.
We went on to say:
Of course, because Dr. Feinberg has a vested interest in animal-models he went to say that animal models are ``incredibly important.'' He explained quite well why they are useless but did not go into detail as to why they are so ``incredibly important.''
Elsewhere in the book, we also said: “Monkeys do not die of AIDS and humans do” but that statement was not attributed to Dr Feinberg as it was ours.
Compare that with the below from The Animal Research War (Palgrave 2008).
When Dr. Feinberg had a chance to speak for himself, he said, “There are many instances where the use of animal model research is absolutely essential for evaluating the safety and efficacy of [AIDS] candidate vaccines. Moreover, the statement that "Monkeys do not get AIDS; humans do," is completely false. The SIV [simian immunodeficiency virus] infection model for AIDS has been extremely important for understanding critical aspects of AIDS pathogenesis that cannot be studied in humans. I do not wish to be held responsible for comments . . . that have been so removed from their context that they no longer convey the meaning I had intended.” (Personal email from Mark Feinberg, MD, PhD, to Charles Nicoll, PhD.
There are several things to note about what was written in The Animal Research War:
- While our source was the Atlanta Journal Constitution Conn and Parker quoted an email from Feinberg to Charles Nicoll, a Berkeley professor who had contacted Feinberg in preparation for a debate with Ray Greek. If one member of the animal model community chastises another for a quote pointing out the flaws of animal-based studies, we do not find it surprising that the criticized member would respond as Feinberg did to Nicoll.
- Feinberg’s email misquotes us when he said, referring to our book, that we say "Monkeys do not get AIDS; humans do." What we actually said was: “Monkeys do not die of AIDS and humans do.” That is not a subtle difference. However, in point of fact injecting HIV into monkeys does not result in human AIDS. Injecting SIV into monkeys results in simian AIDS; two different viruses and two different diseases.
- . Feinberg accuses us: “I do not wish to be held responsible for comments . . . that have been so removed from their context that they no longer convey the meaning I had intended.” In the very next sentence, after the Feinberg quote we again quote Feinberg as saying that animal models are “incredibly important.” The power of the Feinberg quote lies in the fact that he is a true believer in the animal model and yet said what he did about testing vaccines on monkeys. His vaccine statement was not put into a different context precisely because our point was based on the fact that he was a true believer.
- Despite Conn and Parker’s accusation, Feinberg had a chance to speak for himself in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. During the interview that led to the article he was not surrounded by hostile animal rights people with guns forcing him to say what he did.
- As Feinberg’s position that “… animal model research is absolutely essential for evaluating the safety and efficacy of [AIDS] candidate vaccines.” Compare that to an article by Jocelyn Kaiser in Science April 4, 2008:
NIAID called for a summit earlier this year following the suspension in September of an international trial of a Merck AIDS vaccine, which failed to protect against HIV infection and may even have made some people more susceptible (Science, 16 November 2007, p. 1048) . . . The summit also considered another problem: the need for a predictive animal model. Participants agreed that the rhesus macaque system now used to test potential vaccines isn't working well.
In point of fact, animals have not predicted human response to HIV vaccines. Over fifty vaccines have tested well in monkeys; none have been effective in humans.
If all accusations of us quoting out of context are examined as above you will find the above to be typical. Judge for yourself whether we quoted Feinberg out of context.