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Home / Articles / Views / Letters /  Monsanto, miRagen response to last week’s BW ‘Muzzled by Monsanto story’
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Thursday, April 10,2014

Monsanto, miRagen response to last week’s BW ‘Muzzled by Monsanto story’

Much of your April 3 article (Muzzled by Monsanto) describes the scientific process which includes experts presenting data, other experts critiquing their methods and results, and the scientific community’s best minds challenging and defending the evidence and what it tells us. This is how knowledge grows. We respect this healthy, often passionate exchange of information and all of us benefit as a result.

Within the story, however, there was an assertion that Monsanto attempted to influence the scientific process and the work of one researcher, Dr. Vicki Vance. We regret any misunderstanding with this particular researcher and would have shared our perspective with your reporter if she had asked us about that issue. We work with hundreds of scientists all around the world on a daily basis and we encourage the healthy dialogue that is part of the scientific process.

In this particular instance, we were highly interested in a study Dr. Vance planned to reference. That study had drawn controversial conclusions and we thought it would be important to have other experts conduct additional testing to try to confirm those results. We worked with experts in the field at miRagen on such testing. That extensive study showed very different results and has since been peer reviewed and published. While our work with miRagen was under peer review multiple independent studies were published coming to similar conclusions.

All of the interactions we have had with Dr. Vance and other researchers in the field have always been focused on ensuring the best science is brought to bear, leading to an unbiased discussion of the facts.

For the readers of the Boulder Weekly, we want you to know that while Monsanto scientists vigorously engage in the scientific process, we do not and will not condone violating that process in any way. That is not who we are or how we work with scientists.

Gregory Heck, Monsanto Weed Control Platform Lead Editor’s note: Boulder Weekly contacted Monsanto to request an interview with their scientists for the above-mentioned story. They were unable to resolve scheduling conflicts prior to deadline.

“Muzzled by Monsanto” is a speculative and sensationalistic article that ignores the body of scientific evidence generated across multiple independent laboratories in favor of a dubious conspiracy theory.

Just to be absolutely clear, miRagen’s sole motivation for conducting the studies in collaboration with Monsanto was to help determine if plants could provide an important new technology for the oral delivery of RNA-based human therapeutics and therapeutic foods. Our company is focused on developing innovative RNA medicines to treat diseases of high unmet medical need. The original observation published by Dr. Zhang provided a potentially ground breaking opportunity that we had hoped to apply to RNA-based drugs. The fact that we were unable to reproduce the published scientific results was a major disappointment.

An article with less conspiracy theory and more balanced conclusions would have benefited your readers by contributing positively to the dialog on the topic. Instead, you left the audience with a very biased impression, including the assertion that Monsanto is attempting to suppress research in the area by using companies like miRagen as their foot soldiers. This couldn’t be further from the truth and to suggest so is quite offensive. The studies we conducted on the potential of plants to make RNA molecules orally available were of the highest scientific standard. The paper miRagen published in Nature Biotechnology was independently peer reviewed by at least five experts in the field selected by the editor of the Journal. Unfortunately we could not demonstrate that the phenomenon reported by Dr. Zhang was reproducible.

Again, very simple, no grand conspiracies, but probably too boring to sell adds… Bill Marshall, president and CEO of miRagen Therapeutics, Inc.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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