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Harvard Medical School

Harvard Medical School (HMS) collaborates with the US national security state and Zionist organizations, while promoting a neoliberal, privatization-oriented view of medical research and health care.

Racist formation of the school, abuse of Black bodies, and promotion of eugenics

As Harriet Washington writes in Medical Apartheid, Harvard Medical School was moved to Boston from Harvard University's original campus in Cambridge so that the school could access cadavres for dissection - which was crucial to establish the school's authority and credentials in this period (Medical Apartheid, p. 133). John Warren and Aaron Dexter decided that moving to Boston would allow them access to the bodies of poor Blacks and whites (from almshouses), which according to them were not as readily available in Cambridge - so they petitioned the president of Harvard to relocate the medical school to Boston. Michael Sappol describes this transition in A Traffic of Dead Bodies:

Medical schools proliferated and what they were selling---what students demanded---was. training that featured anatomical dissection as its centerpiece. Thus in 1810 Harvard Medical School was forced to relocate to Boston, because cadavres were "utterly unattainable at Cambridge." In his petition to the president and fellows of the university, John Warren argued that "one of the great objects" that attracted students to the school was the chance to dissect cadavres. Without cadavres (which Warren planned to obtain from the nearby Boston Almshouse), Harvard would never succeed in its goal of becoming an eminent medical institution." (A Traffic of Dead Bodies, p. 60).

John Warren became the dean of HMS and one of the founders of Mass General Hospital, the famous HMS-affiliated hospital. The abuse and disrespect for Black bodies continues in these institutions today: at Mass General Hospital's "Ether Dome," the famous hall where surgeries and dissections were being performed to audiences of medical students (and where researchers give talks nowadays), one can find an Egyptian mummy on display - another grotesque violation of bodies of ancestors that's meant to make the institute look sophisticated and "worldly." These remains continue to be violated, as MGH performs CT scans and X-rays on the mummy

Harvard Medical School also has a history of promoting scientific racism and eugenic ideology. This too continues today in the form of a rebranded form of eugenics that relies on reproductive and genomic technologies such as genome-editing to create more "fit" humans. Some HMS professors are unafraid to promote brazen eugenics even after it became impolite in liberal society. One of HMS's most prominent and well-funded professors, George Church, told the Wall Street Journal in 2021: “I don’t see why eliminating a disability or giving a kid blue eyes or adding 15 IQ points [using genome-editing] is truly a threat to public health or to morality.” As biologist and activist Ruth Hubbard has argued, this profitable genetic industry that seeks to "eliminate disabilities" and "increase IQ" is not only steeped in eugenics and white supremacy, it also shields society's ableist structures from scrutiny, and places enormous burden on people -- on mothers especially -- to make devastating decisions about who gets to live and who gets to die.

Support for Israel

Harvard Medical School has deep ties to the Blavatnik Family Foundation, founded by billionaire Len Blavatnik and a major donor to Zionist causes. Based in New York, the Blavatnik Family Foundation donated $200 million to Harvard Medical School in 2018 alone, as well as donating $100 million to Harvard University as a whole in FY19. The creation of the "Blavatnik Institute" was a major event at HMS, with HMS deciding to group eleven of its departments under the new institute bearing the billionaire's name. Harvard Medical School currently administers the Blavatnik Therapeutics Challenge Awards (BTCA) program, which aims to "accelerate therapeutics research throughout HMS and its affiliated hospitals, help investigators navigate the intricacies of intellectual property development and licensing, and spur the creation of new companies." Awarding five separate 2-year $1 million grants to researchers, the BTCA program is financially sustained by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Along with their role in financially sustaining Harvard Medical School and Harvard University, the Blavatnik Family Foundation financially sustains numerous organizations and institutions which support Israel and Zionism as well as US empire. There include: American Friends of Tel Aviv University ($8 million total in FY18 and FY 19 - and a total $40 million over years prior to FY18 according to the university), The Council on Foreign Relations ($3,050,000 in FY19 alone), The Birthright Israel Foundation ($2 million total in FY18 and FY 19), Friends of the IDF ($446,719 total in FY18 and FY19), Hillel international ($100,000 in FY18) and the Hillel Foundation of Jewish Campus Life ($220,000 total in FY18 and FY19), The Jewish Agency for Israel ($100,000 in FY18 and FY19), and The America Friends of Israel Museum ($100,000 in FY2019).

In August 2021, Harvard Medical School and the Clalit Research Institute in Israel announced the launch of a joint collaborative partnership in precision medicine, featuring the creation of The Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Living Laboratory at HMS and The Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Precision Medicine Clinic at Clalit. HMS and Clalit state they "will work together to conduct joint research." The partnership with HMS will allow Clalit to create a so-called "precision medicine" clinic in Israel.

Ties to the US war machine

Harvard Medical School researchers also work closely with the Pentagon on a number of projects related to surveillance and biological weapons. Since 2017, HMS researchers (along with researchers at MIT and other Boston-area universities) have received grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop biological tools of surveillance, and to weaponize biology to meet the Pentagon's disturbing visions. For example, in a grant from DARPA's Biological Robustness in Complex Settings (BRICS) program, HMS researchers along with researchers from Boston University and MIT, sought to develop microbes that could be used as surveillance devices on the battlefield, according to specifications described by DARPA. DARPA sought to develop a so-called "Forensic Microbial System," that is genetically engineered microbes capable of tracking people's movement on the battlefield. According to DARPA's specifications, such microbes should be able to withstand 10 miles per hour winds, and last for several months in the region where they were planted. These systems, if they were to be realized, are not only tools of surveillance that can be extended to become full-on biological weapons - they also potentially pose an ecological and environmental threat.

HMS scientists and their collaborators in the Boston-area worked to deliver a system that could meet DARPA's specifications, while obscuring the real goals and motivations behind this work. When HMS researchers published their microbial forensic system, it was sold to the public through a Harvard Medical School press release as a system that could track contamination in "global food supply chains" - a contrived narrative devised after the fact to cover the militaristic basis of the project. Nonetheless, this scientific paper published in Science magazine in 2020, gives a more accurate account of the project's goals, stating that biological "tools that label persons or objects passing through a location of interest could also be useful to law enforcement as a complement to fingerprinting and video surveillance."

Privatization of Research and Health Care

Harvard Medical School has numerous links to corporations and has adopted an "entrepreneurial" view of biomedical research in which researchers and doctors are encouraged to work for pharmaceuticals and start their own biotech startups. The liberal framework of "conflict of interest" cannot even begin to capture how deeply entwined elite biomedical research at a campus such as HMS is with the corporate world. Even conservative, establishment figures within the biomedical research recognize this - see this editorial published in 2000 from an HMS professor in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Is Academic Medicine For Sale?". During the Covid pandemic, one HMS professor even became a billionaire from his investments in biotech companies. Today, this form of neoliberal, entrepreneurial biomedicine -- in which scientists and doctors work and think in terms of "the market," and see themselves as as entrepreneurs -- is the norm Harvard Medical School and elite institutions like it.

25 Shattuck St, Boston, MA 02115

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