I received a special missive this morning from the Foundation for Biomedical Research that reported the home of UCLA nicotine researcher, Dr Edie London, was vandalized/terrorized by a fire set to a “device” on her front porch. The story now appears at the Los Angeles Times:
London, a professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences and of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, uses lab monkeys in her research on nicotine addiction.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed that officials with the Joint Terrorism Task Force were investigating the incident. [Those with information are urged to contact the FBI at (310) 477-6565]
“It was ignited and caused damage to the property,” Eimiller said. “No one was home at the time and nobody was hurt.”
Sadly, this is the very same Dr Edythe London whose home was flooded back in October by a garden hose, causing $20,000 to $30,000 in damages. The Animal Liberation Front took responsibility for that incident, leaving a note warning of future attacks:
“Water was our second choice, fire was our first. We compromised because we in the ALF don’t risk harming animals human and non human and we don’t risk starting brush fires,” the statement read.
In response to this incident and others directed at her colleagues, London crafted an eloquent op-ed at for the 1 Nov 2007 LA Times entitled, “Why I use laboratory animals”:
I have devoted my career to understanding how nicotine, methamphetamine and other drugs can hijack brain chemistry and leave the affected individual at the mercy of his or her addiction. My personal connection to addiction is rooted in the untimely death of my father, who died of complications of nicotine dependence. My work on the neurobiology of addiction has spanned three decades of my life — most of this time as a senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health. To me, nothing could be more important than solving the mysteries of addiction and learning how we can restore a person’s control over his or her own life. Addiction robs young people of their futures, destroys families and places a tremendous burden on society.
Animal studies allow us to test potential treatments without confounding factors, such as prior drug use and other experiences that complicate human studies. Even more important, they allow us to test possibly life-saving treatments before they are considered safe to test in humans.
The essay is terrific and illustrates why an addiction researcher would risk her life and property to answer these scientific questions. The CDC Office on Smoking and Health estimated in 2004 that the total US economic costs of nicotine addiction were $150 billion. But the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (GDCADA) used information from Discovery Health to put the human costs of nicotine addiction in perspective:
“Every year, tobacco use kills more Americans than World War II and the Vietnam War combined. That’s more than 440,000 smoking-related deaths every year — the equivalent of three 747s being downed every day without any survivors.”
I am hardpressed to find an area of greater importance to the nation’s health and welfare than the focus of Dr London’s research.
Back in August we discussed the valuable service provided by the DC-based Foundation for Biomedical Research in educating the public about the need for animal research, the limits of computational and in vitro studies, the limits of ethical research on humans, and the protection of researchers from terrorists.
Our admiration and best wishes go out to Dr London.
Addendum: The story at UCLA’s campus newspaper, The Daily Bruin, can be found here.