San Diego Business Journal National Cancer Institute Awards $100K Research Grant to Local Firm

San Diego-based Biocom couldn't have gotten a more upbeat keynote speaker than Graham Molitor to ring in its ninth annual CALBIOsummit meeting.

Molitor, vice president and legal counsel for the World Future Society, heralded biotech as the dominating force of all U.S. economic activity by 2100.

He predicted biotech research will unlock the door to human life without disease, eventually offering humans the choice of eternal life.

"We are on the verge of the last generation of sick people," Molitor told some 1,300 attendees of the biotech industry meeting Oct. 30 at the San Diego Convention Center.

The meeting was sponsored by Biocom, San Diego's biotech industry association, and UCSD Connect, which furthers the growth of high-tech and biotech firms in San Diego.

Molitor predicted a world in which spare body parts, from hearts and lungs to limbs, will be readily available for implantation and humans need not fear a transplant rejection.

In this world, genes will be repaired and replaced so they won't translate into disease, and designer babies and cloned humans will be a daily occurrence.

"People will be living longer , 100 years or, optionally, forever," Molitor predicted. Looking ahead to the next millennium, the average person will be 6 feet 2 inches tall, weigh between 180 and 210 pounds and work less and live better than we do now.

Moral and ethical questions will be raised, but society will succumb to progress, he said.

"Organized religion and assorted well-intentioned crusaders will work mightily to thwart genetic advances and challenge their beliefs," he said.

But "eradicating genetic diseases, extending life expectancy, increasing food production, providing synthetic lumber, generating industrial enzymes all of these advances, so many more, will prove far too important to be stifled."

A Bahamas-based firm already offers human cloning services for $200,000, he noted.

Another firm based in Silicon Valley, Genetic Saving & Clone, affiliated with Texas A & M; University, invested $2.3 million to clone a billionaire's dog, he said. The effort was unsuccessful.

However, the same firm now said it will save and store a pet's cells for $1,000 until cloning becomes more feasible, Molitor said.

When asked about the downside of all this progress, Molitor sided with progress.

Mary Shelly's man-made monster in the novel "Frankenstein" wasn't man's first creation to turn against mankind, Molitor said. "Virtually every science has an upside and a downside," he said. "But in the end the scientific breakthroughs will be more important."

He conceded at first these breakthroughs may not be widely available and affordable. Eventually supply will outstrip demand, which will make breakthrough drugs and therapies cost-effective for everyone, he predicted.

Molitor was a lobbyist for food-product makers General Mills and Nabisco Inc., in the 1960s and 1970s.

He said he has no investments in biotech firms at this time. Molitor is also the president of Public Policy Forecasting based in Washington, D.C.

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Research Grant: Privately held Structural Bioinformatics Inc. announced Nov. 6 the National Cancer Institute awarded it a $100,000 grant to pursue cancer research.

Structural Bioinformatics, a San Diego biotech firm specializing in the study of proteins, or proteomics, said it will use the money to look for an inhibitor that can block a cancer-causing protein.

"NCI funding acknowledges the importance of this target and SBI's past successes in designing small molecules to disrupt much larger binding surfaces," said Jerry Dodd, SBI's vice president of corporate development.

Send biotech news to Webb at mwebb@sdbj.com.