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A Better Mouse Trap

In response to:

The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice from the April 15, 1976 issue

To the Editors:

Sir Peter Medawar’s perceptive analysis of the Summerlin affair contains an important error. Sir Peter stated, “The study group that visited Summerlin’s laboratories evidently had some misgivings about the authenticity of the work, but however deep-seated these may have been, Summerlin was funded both by the NIH and by other benefactors.”

As the chairman of the study group that made the visit referred to by Sir Peter, I can assure him that the NIH did not approve Summerlin’s grant application. The fact is that the Immunobiology Study Section of the NIH unanimously voted to disapprove the application. It is important to rectify this error because the peer group system of review used by the NIH in this case is now under vigorous attack as too costly and inefficient.

Finally, I do want to agree with Sir Peter’s compassionate judgment of Robert Good. There is no doubt that Good has been as responsible as anyone for the extraordinary progress made in immunology. His career has been brilliant, and there is every reason to believe that it will so continue. Good’s support of Summerlin was, I believe, a manifestation of his enthusiastic support of many other younger colleagues. Good has trained dozens of eminent scientists who have embarked on their own distinguished careers. Perhaps it was inevitable that, among these outstanding students, a bad apple would turn up. But that is no reason to cut down the tree.

Robert S. Schwartz, MD

Tufts University School of Medicine

New England Medical Center Hospital

Boston, Massachusetts

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