At Clinatec, talks are on brain-machine interface, deep neuro-stimulation,and nano-implants in the skull. These novel medical devices will be tested in the next few months on patients. This alliance between nuclear industry, that of nanotechnology and neuroscience researchers bodes ill for the necessary democratic control which should guide the use of these dangerous sciences , at the very least, futuristic , because nanotechnology is not without many problems (please see our articles on the issue). Would they, by any chance, be trying to very discreetly invent at Clinatec the future bionic man bristling with electrodes and monitored by sensors?
Geneviève Fioraso, Clinatec Minister.
The building of Clinatec was launched in 2008 with a “restricted procedure”: as a statutory body classified “defense secret” it is not subject to the Procurement Code. Secrecy cult is strongly criticized by its detractors. Why carry out clinic research outside a hospital? What is Clinatec’s status? Does it have an ethics committee? Whom is its “Management Board” which includes François Berger and Alim-Louis Benabid to be composed of?
“We did not wish to talk about the project as long as we did not have the permission (from ARS, ed), says François Berger, who is being interviewed by “Basta!”. We are just beginning to communicate. We also decided not to make a science-fiction communication, but keep a low profile about what we do at Clinatec.” After opacity, time for transparency ?
Clinatec Project is strongly supported by the city of Grenoble. Its mayor, Socialist Michel Destot is a strong supporter. Nothing surprising: he used to be a former CEA engineer, and also led a start-up born in the lap of CEA itself. As a mayor, he has been presiding over Grenoble CHU or University Hospital Center since 1995, another Clinatec key actor. Professor Alim-Louis Benabid was on his list in the last local elections. This researcher also chaired the support committee of Geneviève Fioraso, then Assistant to the City of Grenoble, in the recent legislative elections.
Clinatec, the dream of nuclear engineers.
Geneviève Fioraso, the current Minister of Higher Education Research, responsible for “innovation” in the campaign team of François Hollande, is another Clinatec key player. The joint enterprise she chairs, SEM Minatec Enterprise, is housing Clinatec in its activity area. Her partner, Stéphane Siebert, is Deputy Director of Grenoble CEA. “Destot, Fioraso, Siebert means CEA is within the City Hall, Fioraso in the Higher Education means CEA is within the Ministry” , declares Grenoble ecologist Raymond Avrillier in his analysis.”
CEA Director makes us run around, but we do cope” says Geneviève Fioraso , about Jean Therme. As the Director of Grenoble CEA, he is the designer of Clinatec. A “dream” started on June 2, 2006 in his office in the presence of Alain Bugat, General Armament Engineer , then CEA Deputy Head and of Bernard Bigot, then High Commissioner to Atomic Energy and now vice-chairman of Areva Supervisory Board and CEA Deputy Head . Will this dream cherished by the men of the nuclear industry, both civil and military, turn into a nightmare for democracy?
“Knowledge transfer to industry”.
Performing research, including on human beings, with risky technologies is one thing. Commercialising applications for industry is another. Does this frontier between clinical tests and industrial applications exist at Clinatec? The centre is a “hotel for projects, opento academic and industrial collaboration”. Facilities can be rented for both public and private research purposes. Clinatec is referred to as a place allowing “knowledge and know-how transfer to industry ”  and is introduced as an exemplary public-private partnership . By placing all the necessary competences in the same place, projects’ promoters hope “to speed up the process of technology transfer to the patient” via thepharmaceutical or medical industry.
Even long before setting down to work, economic markets already seem assured. The Laboratory of Electronics and Information Technologies (Leti) of Grenoble CEA, which Clinatec depends on, is particularly keen on close cooperation with the private sector. Its slogan? “Innovation at the service of industry”. Its objective? Strive “to reinforce the competitiveness of its  industrial partners“. Leti prides itself on being one of the most prolific research institutes in the world, in technological start-ups. Clinatec’s geographic closeness with the firms on the site – Siemens, Philips, Thales, Bio-Mérieux, Becton Dickinson or Sanofi Aventis – is definitely an asset to speed up the transfer of these nano-medical innovations!
Which business opportunities?
A U.S. company, Medtronic, already sells “deep neurological brain stimulation kits” for people with Parkinson’s disease. A system which is the result of Professor Alim-Louis Benabid’s research work. The firm, nicknamed “the Microsoft of medical implants,” according to PMO, achieved a 16.2 billion dollar turnover in 2012, probably thanks to the new version of its neurological stimulator .
With this implant, patients can improve their speech or mobility ability, but one has to make sure not to get the wrong program, because the stimulation of the “speech” function can hinder mobility and vice versa ! This technology is still high risk: if poorly implemented, it can cause coma or death of the patient.
From the treatment of Parkinson’s to “regenerative medicine.”
“The definition of new avenues for future medicine involves a new culture of research,” says Clinatec’s presentation file . We hope to go well beyond those early uses. Researchers will mainly work on neurostimulation, on the localized administration of drugs through the pumps placed in the body, for example, or the functional substitution of machines replacing over failed functions . They could also concentrate on magnetic stimulation, to fight against depression.
We are venturing here far beyond the treatment of the uncontrolled movements of Parkinson’s disease. The question is to stimulate with electrodes the reward brain circuitry, as shown by experiments in Germany for the treatment of severe depression. In Grenoble, “regarding this issue, we’re only at a theoretical research stage, not at clinical tests stage yet ,” points out François Berger. Will we soon have brain implants to erase our bad memories, stimulate our joviality or change our perception of the world?
In 2008, the Center’s director reported another possible application i.e. the use of implants for “regenerative medicine“. Neurostimulation would start before the onset of symptoms, to slow down the degenerative process. “It should then come much earlier, perhaps be pre-clinical, in the event we have biomarkers, which would not fail to cause ethical problems ,” admits François Berger … Imagine electrodes implanted in the brain at birth, electrodes which will speed up to prevent aging.
“You can change someone’s personality.”
“The fact of having some device implants that will treat the disease before it appears, can also be an advantage, even if it is somewhat amazing ” François Berger argued before the Parliament. “It is true that one of the goals of nanomedicine is to not have to repair. (…) Through nanomedicine, we will provide a new border between the normal and the pathological. We will have to be extremely careful. These are decisions of the firms, “warns Clinatec Director.
What does his colleague Alim-Louis Benabid think? “With electrodes and brain implants, you can change someone’s personality, from abnormal to normal. We can put people from a suicidal state to jolly one. Should we then conclude that we can manipulate people and get them to work in quick time? Certainly, but they are already made to work in quick time through other different means», Benabib allegedly declared in January.  For the Union of psychiatry, there’s no doubt: “The creation of Clinatec is clearly a step furthermore in a techno-scientist escape forward , with no other purpose than controlling populations, by reducing the human being to a mere brain, a mere behaviour, a mere utility, and a mere docility.»
Clinatec embodies a “new culture of research” with unprecedented implications for the human being, and which in addition aims at “accelerating” the transfer of these technologies to industry. These twofold objectives are far from being consistent with the precautionary principle. “The clinician that I am can however, only sound the alarm to the precautionary principle. Too much regulation kills therapeutic innovation, “said François Berger at a hearing by the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices. “Obviously, people are scared,” pointed out the researcher, who was thankful to the conference organization for giving researchers “the opportunity to educate citizens” on the issue.
A hacker had allegedly found a way to hack remote pacemakers and cause fatal electric shocks by rewriting the computer code … Imagine the impact on the brain! Medtronic, a leading manufacturer of neurological pacemakers advised to avoid security gates at airports, and warned that the neurostimulator can turn on or off when close to small permanent magnets, such as speakers or refrigerator doors.
High tech version of electroshock?
Will the nano-miniaturization of these devices make them safer? Or on the contrary more uncontrollable? In the race for nanotechnology , such projects as Clinatec are presented as symbols of French excellence. Current medicine, based on anatomy and symptoms, is stepping to regenerative nano medicine, so what does it have in store for us ? Where is the boundary between medicine and human “enhancement”,transhumanists’ fond topic? How far can you dive into the brain?
And is it to be wished to treat symptoms rather than the environmental factors of neurodegenerative diseases? Neurostimulation “corrects the symptoms and not the disease. In other words, as recognized by Benabid himself, electrodesdo not cure“. “When applied to mental suffering, they become only the high-tech version of electroshock”, claims Pièces et Main d’Oeuvre Collective. “No matter what the cause of depression, addiction, food disorder, and OCD, just send the correct frequency and say no more!”
@AgnesRousseaux sur twitter
A lire aussi :
Nanotechnologies : tous cobayes de la nano-bouffe ?
Nanotechnologies : « Eviter que l’histoire de l’amiante ne se répète »
Le débat national sur les nanotechnologies fait naufrage
« Avec les nanotechnologies, nous entrons dans une société de contrainte, totalitaire »
Face aux nanotechnologies, l’Afsset appelle à « agir sans attendre »
Résumé du fonctionnement de Clinatec (dossier de présentation du CEA) :
 Les deux objectifs majeurs du CEA sont : « devenir le premier organisme européen de recherche technologique et garantir la pérennité de la dissuasion nucléaire », rappelle le dossier de présentation de Clinatec
 Alim Benabid est professeur émérite de l’Université Joseph Fourier, il a été Chef du service de neurochirurgie au CHU Grenoble de 1989 à 2004 et Directeur de l’Unité INSERM U318 de 1988 à 2007, membre de l’Académie des Sciences et de l’Académie de Médecine.
 François Berger, Institut des neurosciences de Grenoble, équipe nano médecine et cerveau (INSERM- CEA)
 Audition devant l’Office parlementaire d’évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques du 7/11/06
 Membre du conseil d’administration de DCNS, EDF et Cogema.
 Une partie du financement est également apporté par la Fondation philanthropique Edmond J. Safra.
 « Avec batteries sans fil rechargeables à travers la peau par induction (comme les brosses à dents électriques) », explique un site suisse sur la maladie de Parkinson. Ce dispositif est remboursé par la Sécurité sociale.
 « Les patients chez lesquels la stimulation permet une amélioration de la mobilité mais limite également la faculté de la parole peuvent passer, selon la situation, d’un programme “mettant l’accent sur le langage” (par exemple téléphoner, discuter) à un programme “mettant l’accent sur le mouvement” (par exemple marcher, écrire) » Source : Parkinson.ch.
 Source : Office parlementaire d’évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques, Exploration du cerveau, Neurosciences : Avancées scientifiques, enjeux éthiques, Compte-rendu de l’audition publique du 26 mars 2008
 Audition devant l’Office parlementaire d’évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques, 7/11/06.
 Lors d’une présentation publique à Saint-Ismier, le 17 janvier 2012, propos rapportés par PMO
 Pour Luc Mallet, Psychiatre, chercheur au centre de recherche de l’Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (ICM), les observations sur les erreurs d’implantation ont montré, de façon décisive, la possibilité d’agir sur des comportements, des affects, des cognitions, en modulant de façon très précise de toutes petites zones au coeur du cerveau, les « ganglions de la base », alors que jusqu’à présent, on mettait en avant le rôle de ces petites structures dans la motricité. « La stimulation de zones très précises, par exemple, dans une petite zone qui s’appelle « noyau sous-thalamique », qui est toute petite (à l’échelle des millimètres), peut induire un état d’excitation et d’euphorie. » Source par le Sénat, le 29 juin 2011
 L’Organisation américaine de l’alimentation et des médicaments (FDA) s’est penchée sur le cas des pompes à perfusion qui auraient causé près de 20 000 blessures graves et plus de 700 morts entre 2005 et 2009, à cause d’erreurs de logiciels. Source