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Addiction Research at UCLA a Smoking Gun

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Earlier this week, UCLA researcher and professor Edythe London had an incendiary device left on the porch of her home on the West side. London has been the target of such protest activities before, and remains as such, because of the project she is helming at the school to study nicotine addiction.

The LA Times has a succinct recipe for London and UCLA's research-related woes:

First, find dozens of hard-core teenage smokers as young as 14 and study their brains with high-tech scans. Second, feed vervet monkeys liquid nicotine and then kill at least six of them to examine their brains. Third, accept $6 million from tobacco giant Philip Morris to pay for it all. Fourth, cloak the project in unusual secrecy.
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What does London and her team hope to uncover in this controversial process? She says the study "could discover new ways to help people quit smoking and lead to innovative treatments for other addictions." Although the animals' lives are sacrificed, she believes her work will ultimate save human lives.What role does Philip Morris play in this, then?

The tobacco company's intentions for funding the study read as dubious to many, who believe that Philip Morris is more interested in the study's results to help them "design a more addictive cigarette."

UCLA doesn't care where the money comes from, just that the checks don't bounce.

Roberto Peccei, the vice chancellor for research at UCLA, is quoted as saying: "I have no idea why Philip Morris decides to fund this anti-smoking research, but they do," and adds that the integrity of his campus' actions are of utmost priority, concluding that "what's in the mind of the funder is irrelevant."

The cigarette manufacturer sponsors 23 research projects at 7 different UC campuses, and has long faced opposition for their funding.

For more than a year, anti-tobacco scientists and activists have pushed UC to prohibit faculty from accepting money from tobacco companies for research on tobacco. The Board of Regents, citing academic freedom, agreed instead to establish a committee that will review tobacco company research proposals.
The LA Times also published a breakdown of Philip Morris' contributions to research on UC campuses:
Here are the grants, by school, as of June 2007. * UCLA ...$7,674,604

* UC Davis...$3,811,200

* UC Berkeley...$2,066,867

* UC San Diego...$1,537,813

* UC Santa Barbara...$647,815

* UC Irvine...$582,228

* UC Riverside...$327,134

Total... $16,647,661

Source: University of California

But why the secrecy? The Times says, "UCLA has attempted to keep quiet about London's study out of fear of attacks on its researchers."

So far, their efforts have been somewhat unsuccessful, with this past week's attack on London's home the most recent in a string of attacks on reasearchers' home and property.

Photo by Pσrcelα�?ηg�?rl° via Flickr