The cigarette industry spent millions on genomics research—and somebody just sabotaged a new report about it


Cyber Attack Spikes Report of Collusion Between Scientists, Industry, and Government


ITHACA, N.Y., Aug. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The key event in the history of human genetic science was to be nurtured with financial and political support from the tobacco industry. Between 1960 and 1998 the tobacco industry furnished around 1,000 British and U.S. genetic researchers with an estimated 370 million research dollars[1]. The industry aim was to grow human genetics into the cornerstone of a scientific tobacco PR strategy to portray lung cancer as originating in genetic weakness and not cigarettes.

An investigation just published [2] shows that this PR strategy has since then grown into a much broader collusion between scientists, industry, and governments to downplay and ignore the environmental and social origins of human diseases. Thus funding for genetics and genomics has expanded from lung cancer to examining common physical diseases into current epidemics of mental health disorders, and even social inequality.

The investigation is by the Bioscience Resource Project, a public interest science non-profit and publisher of Independent Science News. “Governments and industry discovered they had a common interest in disguising the failures of public policies and the harms of commercial products,” says author Jonathan Latham, Ph.D. “Genetics has become the go-to science of polluters and governments disinclined to address politically challenging social and environmental issues.”

“Consistently, we find weak scientific evidence for genetic influences is seized upon while strong evidence for environmental influences is disregarded,” says Allison Wilson, Ph.D., Science Director of the Bioscience Resource Project. “No matter how much evidence accumulates against genetic explanations for a disease or disorder, the funding stream seems only to grow.”

The investigation was officially published on July 31, 2013 ( However, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack on August 1st, described by its service provider as “massive,” forced Independent Science News offline. This attack lasted five days.  “To get ISN back the site had to be moved to another service provider and a different server,” said Dr Latham.

“The timing of this attack, just 24hrs after publication, was spot-on perfect to cause maximum disruption to the launch. For three days the press release, tweets, and shares on Facebook directed readers only to a default error message.”

Additional Quotes: “The search for meaningful and replicable genetic predispositions to the common diseases (such as lung cancer, heart disease and diabetes) has been almost wholly unsuccessful. Regardless, however, the PR project to use the public profile of this genomic research to persuade the public that genetics is central to life expectancy and mental health has triumphed,”  says Allison Wilson, Ph.D.

“Genes ‘for’ common disorders (e.g. diabetes, depression) haven’t been found because they do not exist. We can expect no public health benefits from sequencing individuals’ genes” Claudia Chaufan, MD, PhD.

“Genetic determinist thinking about health probably saved the tobacco industry. It may well be the single biggest factor working against meaningful public health, prevention, and environmental policies. Industry knows this and that is why we think Independent Science News was attacked.” Jonathan Latham, PhD

The Bioscience Resource Project is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit based in Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
Tel: 1-607-257-0175 Website:

[1] Gundle et al.  (2010) “To Prove This is the Industry’s Best Hope”: Big Tobacco’s Support of Research on the Genetics of Nicotine. Addiction. 105: 974–983.
Wallace H (2009) Big tobacco and the human genome: Driving the scientific bandwagon? Genomics, Society and Policy 5: 1-54.
[2] Science as Social Control: Political Paralysis and the Genetics Agenda is now available again on the website of Independent Science News (


CONTACT: Jonathan Latham, Ph.D., ( Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project; Allison Wilson, Ph.D. ( Science Director of the Bioscience Resource Project; Claudia Chaufan, MD, Ph.D.  ( Associate Professor, UCSF School of Nursing. Expert in Genetics and Public Health

One reply on “The cigarette industry spent millions on genomics research—and somebody just sabotaged a new report about it”

Posted on Independent Science News:

Thanks Jonathan:

“Essentially the same political logic applies to any human disease or disorder, or even any social complaint. If the disorder, for example autism, can be shown (or even just suggested) to have a partial genetic origin then a barn door is opened for any accused vaccine maker, or polluter, or policymaker, to evade the blame–both legally and in the perception of the public.”

Thank you – yes, there are books to be written about the genetic red-herring and autism. Francis Collins even admitted it to Congress in 2006 when he was still head of the Genome project but in charge of the NIH they plough on regardless:

“Genes alone do not tell the whole story. Recent increases in chronic diseases like diabetes, childhood asthma, obesity or autism cannot be due to major shifts in the human gene pool as those changes take much more time to occur. They must be due to changes in the environment, including diet and physical activity, which may produce disease in genetically predisposed persons.”

Obviously this still over-emphasises the genetic component as against environmental toxicity (and of course lack of physical activity is a cop out – why is there a lack of physical activity?) but it still tells you where not going to find the answer.

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