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Six Predictions for the New Year

In December 2002 NZORD made six predictions for the 2003 year. Click

Here's a summary of them with an update on the outcomes 12 months later, with accuracy scored out of ten.

1. First Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis prior to an IVF pregnancy, will be given ethical approval in New Zealand.

Outcome: Close, but not quite. The law is soon to be passed, the National Ethics Committee on Human Assisted Reproduction is working on establishing the ethical controls, and various labs and IVF clinics are boning up on the technical and diagnostic work. It will probably take another six months for the go-ahead on this exciting new technique.

Score: 7/10 for correctly predicting the direction things are moving, but penalised two points back to 5/10 for being too optimistic on the time frame.

2. Victory for English family seeking HLA-matching child for sick son.

Outcome: Success for several families in fact, though some had to jump through hoops put in their way. See reports at http://jme.bmjjournals.com/cgi/data/27/6/DC1/2

http://www.bio.umass.edu/biochem/mydna/raceforlife.html and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2929781.stm

We now await news of the therapy attempts.

Score: 10/10 for accurately predicting the triumph of love and parental choice over the impediments of critics who just don't seem to understand, or wish to impose their own values on others.

3. Susan Devoy to step down as Patron of Cystic Fibrosis Association of NZ.

Outcome: The ink had hardly dried on this prediction, before Dame Susan confirmed her departure, triggered by CF parents' upset by her contradictory stance over modern technology in medicine. Irate parent power was clearly a powerful force.

Score: 10/10, and entirely without benefit of the knowledge that emerged later, that her resignation was secretly tendered a few weeks prior to the prediction being made.

4. Raelian "cloned baby" exposed as a publicity seeking hoax.

Outcome: Totally as predicted, but it really was a no-brainer wasn't it? The big surprise is that they still get regular media coverage and speaking invitations, as if there was anything even remotely real about it all.

Score 10/10, but I'd surrender 9 of those 10 points to understand how totally wacky cults can get such extensive media coverage, when so many of our considered statements on serious issues, struggle to get noticed. The odd exception almost proves the rule.

5. Significant progress with AgResearch's Transgenic cows programme.

Outcome: As predicted, the next round has been approved and all appeals successfully beaten off. Three target proteins have been selected for production from the cows' milk, and the whole science/technical/business process is well under way on the three projects.

Score: 10/10, and well earned too, given the strong but ill-informed opposition from MadGE that caused some anxious moments, and took a lot of hard work to counter.

6. Several dozen more life-saving medicines produced with modern biotechnology.

Outcome: Spot on again. You can check the results at a variety of sites e.g. www.clinicaltrials.gov or www.centerwatch.com

Score: 10/10 again. This was perhaps so predictable that anyone could have made it, but it needed to be included as a reminder to those so opposed to modern biotechnology, that progress past, present and in the future, is so dependent on the application of cutting edge technologies to improve our health and wellbeing.

Conclusions

Prediciting future events is part Art and part Science.

The art is in picking the issues and the trends that should be apparent to careful observers. The science speaks for itself, but requires close observation of results and trends. Prediction is easiest to do at the point where science impacts on our day to day lives, and has a strong interest from groups who would benefit from its application. Scoring better than 90% should be entirely possible when the right mix of art and science is employed in this way.

The greatest failures in predictions that associate science and our daily lives, come when the would-be predictors fail to employ art wisely in assessing the issues, fail to note the strong interest of certain groups who would benefit from the science, and fail the test of objectivity by allowing their political or personal agendas to cloud the "objective" application of art, to the science before them.

Prediction without a sound basis in science, is bunkum. Speculative prediction of dire consequences from scienctific progress, without acknowledging the specific ethical controls in the science and medical communities, and the controls inherent in the strong interest of the beneficiary groups, is even more foolish.

NZORD wishes you a safe and happy New Year, and progress in understanding and treating the rare disorder that affects someone you know. Regards, John

John Forman Executive Director, NZORD

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