The Luca Coscioni Association for Freedom of Scientific Research

"If you'd meet me, you wouldn't be able to hear my voice. Five years ago, I was struck by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable neuromuscular disease, which makes those who have it paralytic and unable to speak with their own voice. Today, thanks to science, I can once again communicate. It takes me 30 seconds to write one word, which is then read by a computer with a voice synthesizer. In this way, I can now speak, express myself, in a word, live. For me, words have become a scarce resource. I distill them one by one, like something precious, while there are thousands I would love to yell, in order to give thousands like me hope, so that the scientific research that can save us is not halted. There was a time for the miracles of faith. There is a time for the miracles of science. One day, I hope my doctor will say to me: "Try to stand up because perhaps you will walk." The fact is that I don't have much time, we don't have much time. Between a tear and a smile, our difficult existences do not need the anathemas of religious fundamentalism, but rather the silence of freedom. We need freedom for scientific research, and we cannot wait. We cannot wait for the apologies of a future Pope".

The Luca Coscioni Association, founded in 2002, is named after Dr. Luca Coscioni a former Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Viterbo, Italy, who was training for the New York Marathon when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
In 2000, Dr. Coscioni decided to run as a candidate in the online elections for the National Committee of an Italian political party called "Italian Radicals" - a movement known for its campaigns to promote secularism and civil rights and to denounce prohibitions on scientific research. Dr. Coscioni was elected to the body, and the IR made the struggle for freedom for stem cell research the central theme of their electoral campaign.

On the occasion of the 2001 Italian elections, when Dr. Coscioni ran with Former European Commissioner Emma Bonino's group, Nobel Laureate for Literature José Saramago wrote: "perhaps the support of a mere writer like me will seem a little, or a lot, out of place in a list of scientific leaders who, with their names and their prestige, seal the words spoken by Luca Coscioni. In any case, my name is at your disposal, so that the light of reason and human respect can illuminate the gloomy spirits of those who believe themselves to be, still and always, the masters of their destinies. For a long time we waited for day to break, we were exhausted by the waiting, until all of a sudden the courage of a man rendered silent by a terrible disease gave us renewed strength."

Though Dr. Coscioni was not elected to the Italian Parliament, he received the support of hundreds of scientists, physicians, patients as well as political and cultural figures. Later in the year, a similar show of support to Dr. Coscioni characterized his unsuccessful bid to become a member of the National Bioethics Committee.
Throughout 2004, the Luca Coscioni Association campaigned against a proposed UN convention that would have o banned nuclear transfer of embryonic stem cells for therapeutic reasons considering at the same level of reproductive cloning. In April, the Association convened a briefing at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva entitled "Freedom for Medical Research and Treatment as a Human Right", which saw the participation of Dr. José Bernardo Cibelli, South Korean scientists as well as Dr. Bernat Soria Escoms, Director of the first Spanish stem cell research program.

In October 2004, dozens of representatives of Scientific Academies from three continents as well as researchers, intellectuals and advocates led by Nobel Prize Ivar Giaever were convened by the Luca Coscioni Association in Rome to promote an international meeting on freedom of research.

On that occasion, participants committed themselves to the constitution of an entity called "World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research" to act as a permanent forum to address issues related to freedom and research worldwide starting from the launching of an appeal to the United Nations on the eve of the discussion on the proposed "human cloning" ban. The petition was signed by 77 Nobel Laureates and endorsed by the U.S. Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research.
Over the summer of 2004, and then again in spring 2005, the Luca Coscioni Association was been at the forefront of a referendum campaign to repeal a law approved by the Italian Parliament in February 2004, which banned In Vitro Fertilization and, among other things, established a prohibitionist regime on embryonic stem cells research.
On 9 and 10 November 2005 the Luca Coscioni Association, in collaboration with MEPs Emma Bonino and Marco Pannella promoted a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels hosted by the Alliance of Liberal Democrats of Europe (a political group at the EP) that saw the active participations of dozens of MEPs, Scientists from the EU, U.S., Israel, India and Turkey as well as regional Ministers from various European countries.
In addition to being involved in several projects both at the national and international level, as outlined in the outcome document of the Rome meeting of October '04, the Luca Coscioni Association is also acting as the Secretariat for the convenors of the first session of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research, which is scheduled to take place in Rome at the Capitol from 16 to 18 February 2006.

The World Congress has received the substantial financial contribution from the "Monte dei Paschi Foundation" based in Siena, Italy, and a significant donation by Anna, Maria Teresa e Silvia Venturini Fendi.