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Archive for January, 2009

The Return of John Reed

THE RETURN OF JOHN REED

By Don C. Reed

On the 29th and 30th of this month, there will be a meeting of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, (ICOC), governing body of the California stem cell program. This one will be in San Francisco.

As always, you are invited.

When you come in, you will first see rows and rows of folding chairs, for interested citizens like you and I. And at the front? Great tables decked in white cloth, each place with its own microphone, water glass, and folded cardboard name tag. Here is where the ICOC sits: our 29 members, every one a champion of their field.

One nametag you will see that has been missing for more than a year: Dr. John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., chief executive officer of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research. (He is no relation, though I would be proud to call him kin.)

His scientific field is somewhat grimly-titled: apoptosis, cell death. Understanding how and why cells die is crucial in the battle for cure. If cells die too soon, you can have a stroke; not soon enough– cancer.

The Institute for Scientific Information identified Dr. Reed as the most frequently cited scientist in the decade 1995-2005. He has authored over 800 research publications, written more than 50 book chapters, and is the named inventor for more than 70 patents.

Why has he been gone for a year? That is the subject of this column.

Dr. Reed voluntarily absented himself from ICOC deliberations– while California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) investigated something he did.

First, background: ICOC members like Dr. Reed are forbidden to participate in decisions affecting their home organizations. Preventing such conflicts of interest is crucial to the program: or board members could just use their vote to send the money to themselves.

A scientist who works with Dr. Reed’s organization, David Smotrich, applied for a grant through our California program. The proposal went through the usual process, was reviewed by a committee of scientists from out of state, then voted on by the ICOC— and, as is required by law, Dr. Reed took no part in that decision: so far, so good.

The project was judged excellent, receiving one of the highest scores given.

But– when the CIRM staff and legal department did their “due diligence”, making sure the grant fit every requirement, they found what they thought was a fatal flaw.

One of the requirements of this particular grant was that the recipient had to be a full-time employee of the institution making the request.

Burnham Institute was asking for the money, therefore Dr. Smotrich had to be a full-time employee.

Was he?

Maybe yes, maybe no—it depended on how you defined fulltime.

Smotrich had a “full faculty position and privileges at the Burnham… a small institution…(which) does not have a hospital, so it does not have full-time clinicians.”—Terri Somers, “Top Burnham Official accused of conflict of interest”, San Diego Union-Tribune, November 22, 2007.

He did not get a salary there, which would seem to disqualify him; but, on the other hand, with funding hard to get, many scientists at institutions have to pay their own way, bringing a grant with them, while they use the space and equipment of the Institute.

Suddenly, the whole project was dead—on a technicality– which might be a mistake.

What would you have done? Stayed silent and accepted it, watch an outstanding project go down, through a possible misunderstanding?

Remember, there was at this time no official review process for complaints.

Also, the decision had already been made… so was Dr. Reed allowed to voice his concerns now? It was clear he could not use his power of voting or discussion to influence the project’s chances when it was before the ICOC. But afterwards, when the decision was made, could he speak up then, like at a football game, where coaches do not interfere during the action, but may argue with the referee, after the play has been called?

Did the rulebook say anything about the timing of complaints? I visited the CIRM website, and could find nothing to clarify that.

Was this a new situation, which had not been considered, and therefore was not covered by the laws?

Also, there was something else:

“…executive officers of research institutions…who, as part of their responsibilities, oversee and advise researchers in their institution…shall not be deemed to have a conflict of interest under this provision. Recusal, however, is required…”
—“Conflict of Interest Policy for Members of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee”, (footnote at the bottom of page 1-dr)

This is official policy, and it seems to me (admittedly a non-lawyer) to contain some wiggle room. On the one hand, the “recusal” part (not voting on money decisions affecting your outfit) had definitely been followed.

But did Dr. Reed’s legal right to “oversee and advise” allow him to explain his institution’s definition of a full-time employee?

That was a gray area.

With a brand-new organization like the California stem cell program, the rules are not always crystal clear. The process of making the laws began with the writing and passage of Proposition 71. After the voters said yes, there was an immediate major conference with the National Academy of Sciences to figure out best practices, and the ICOC (with the continual input of Sacramento) has been working hard on the rules ever since.

But despite the best planning, going first is not simple.

Dr. Reed felt a mistake was being made, so, he contacted ICOC Chairman Bob Klein, asking him what he should do.

Bob Klein said he “didn’t have the ability to evaluate the information in the administrative review, so if Dr. Reed thought there were errors, he should make them public by writing a letter to the scientific staff.” (ibid)

This was done. Dr. Reed wrote a six and a half page letter, detailing the problem, and sent it to Dr. Arlene Chiu, head of the science department.

It was a mistake.

The CIRM legal department caught the error immediately, stopped it cold. General Counsel Tamara Pachter pointed out there was no appeals process, and the matter would not be considered.

The grant did not receive funding.

But that was not the end of the matter.

Enter John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, a frequent critic of our program. He filed a complaint with California’s Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC), alleging a conflict of interest, and called for the resignations of both Dr. Reed and Chairman Klein.

To my mind, such a penalty is vastly out of proportion, like suggesting the electric chair for a parking violation, but Simpson feels otherwise.

As he puts it: “This is not trivial…When you hand out millions of dollars in public money, you have to play by the rules. He (Smotrich) didn’t meet the eligibility rules advertised for this grant and waiving them would have been unfair to everyone else.” –California Stem Cell Report, November 21, 2007

How did CIRM feel about it?

In an interview with David Jensen of the California Stem Cell Report, CIRM Acting President Dr. Rich Murphy said:

“It is important to remember that Dr. Reed sent his letter after the ICOC had approved the grant…At the time, Dr. Reed mistakenly believed that conflict rules would not prevent him from providing technical information regarding the status of a faculty member to CIRM staff. As soon as CIRM staff received the letter, counsel advised Dr. Reed that he must refrain from contacting the staff and board members regarding a grant to the Burnham and advised staff to disregard Dr. Reed’s letter. It therefore had no effect on CIRM’s process, and Dr. Reed now fully understands the conflict rules.”

The FPPC studied the accusation and background issues for more than a year.

Meanwhile, the rules were clarified, and a complaint process was established, whereby scientists denied grants could speak up, and be heard.

And Dr. Reed voluntarily took himself off the board, until the matter was resolved.

For me, as a patient advocate, the loss was painful, like a favorite football team being forced to play all year with one of our best athletes sidelined: In addition to being incredibly intelligent, Dr. Reed is passionate, clear, dedicated, and caring.

So, we all waited.

At last, the answer came.

A few days ago, the FPPC answer was delivered, in a public letter.

“In our view, by submitting a “letter of appeal” to CIRM staff, Dr. Reed intended to influence a decision that had the potential to affect his economic interests. However…it appears that Dr. Reed attempted to influence a prior-made governmental decision that could not be appealed… Thus, although this matter raises ethical concerns, we are closing this matter with a warning letter….Dr. Reed is advised that failure to comply with the provisions of the Act can result in an enforcement action against him, including monetary penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation…”
–Kourtney C. Vaccaro, Division Chief, Enforcement Division, Fair Political Practices Commission, January 7, 2009

That is harsh language, especially when you consider it took the FPPC itself, experts in the field, over a year to figure it out.

There was no penalty, because there was no violation of the law. Because Dr. Reed had objected to a decision which could not be undone, no crime had been committed.

But that does not mean Simpson was wrong in filing his complaint. Democracy depends on critics; like antibodies, their reactions are often painful to the body politic; yet they perform a vital function. Simpson’s fuss and furor made everybody really stop and think about the issue.

Above all, our system worked. California’s blend of public and private oversight found a problem, and dealt with it. Our legal department spotted the error, and immediately blocked it; while the transparent nature of our program (allowing and encouraging citizen involvement) made the blunder clear, accessible, and fixable.

The incident is done. As its letter states, “…the Fair Political Practices Commission… has closed its file…”

And Dr. John Reed? One of America’s greatest scientists is returning to the ICOC. His life goes forward, benefiting all: this molehill of controversy outweighed by his mountain of accomplishment.

Welcome home, Doctor Reed.

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A Global Stem Cell Research Action Plan

A GLOBAL STEM CELL RESEARCH ACTION PLAN

By Don C. Reed

Like a war more deadly than any in history, chronic disease is ravaging Earth.

The incurably ill suffer and die no less than if bullets had struck them; hospitals and sickrooms overflow, inadequate to the task.

Our problem is simple. With expensive modern medicines, we can keep our loved ones alive despite almost any illness or injury—but we cannot make them well.

Two staggering statistics: first, in America alone, medical costs exceed $2.3 trillion in 2007, more than all federal income tax receipts ($1.8 trillion) combined—and three-fourths of all medical costs are directly due to chronic (incurable) disease.

First, we need international recognition of the scope of the problem.

The United Nations must urge the world to work together on research for cure: stem cell research, gene therapy, biomedicine– within each nation’s ideological belief system.

Some nations (the Vatican, for example) oppose embryonic stem cell research; but there is no reason they could not fund adult stem cell research: the Pope’s recently urged the Earth’s Catholic community to support non-embryonic stem cell research, including the new induced Pluripotentiary (iPS) stem cells, an important piece of the puzzle.

In countries that already do support full stem cell research, advocates must build upon that hard-won foundation in the UK, China, Singapore, Spain, Japan, Sweden, and many others, including (very soon) the United States.

We need international scholarship programs, so even the poorest countries can lend their brightest young men and women to Earth’s emergency. If a country cannot afford a medical research college, loan programs should be developed for this global benefit.

In the business community, every country can and should encourage the research, from basic theory in the laboratories, to translation into actual use: therapies and cures.

As was done in San Diego, where four great institutes joined their strength for the good of all, companies and colleges can form consortiums, sharing their scientists, their knowledge, and their equipment.

Cities, states, and provinces can make life easier for struggling startups: establishing “incubators” for biomedical Mom-and-Pop companies as Silicon Valley did for the fledgling computer industry.

New ways of thinking can foster cooperation among scientists, like the disease team approach of the California stem cell program, and beyond.

What if the best scientists in the country were locked in a room, and not let out until they found a cure for __________ disease? Ridiculous, perhaps, or maybe not: if disease came with explosions, and germs were big enough to wear uniforms, we would take it much more seriously.

At every step, government must help.

Asia understands. In China, the government is offering tax incentives, as well as funding at national and local levels; in Singapore, an entire community, Biopolis, provides jobs and housing for biomedical scientists and their families. This is wisdom, and should be emulated here at home, unless we want the biomedical revolution to be outsourced, giving blessings only to other countries.

In America, the emerging life science industry must think of itself as a new Defense Department– and quit being so bashful! What business is more vital, urgent, and irreplaceable than one which could save lives and ease the suffering of millions?

We dare not flinch from political involvement. On the contrary, Biomed must lobby aggressively, make campaign contributions to legislators who support our goals, and vigorously oppose ideologues who would block the industry of healing.

Talk about a justifiable tax exemption! To my mind, the entire biomedical industry should be tax free for at least a decade, give it time to grow.

In Washington, there is much to be done. President-elect Obama must follow through with his promise: to remove ideological restrictions on regenerative medicine. This goes deeper than the ill-conceived Bush restrictions. The Dickey Amendment, for example, should no longer be automatically renewed, attached every year to some “must-pass” legislation. That miserable law defines cells in a Petri dish as the equivalent of a human being; it is even rewritten year after year to block new forms of research, like nuclear transfer research, which involves neither sperm nor womb. It is time we stopped allowing opponents of science to be the “deciders” on science policy—in a country based on liberty.

But freedom to research, while crucial as the air we breathe, is not enough. We cannot live on air alone, and neither can the families of scientists. These men and women are trying to do the impossible with the invisible, and we must look out for them.

Imagine if President John F. Kennedy had pointed to the sky, and said: we are going to the moon—but we’re not actually going to pay for it? Research without funding is like a moonshot with no rocket.

The Castle/Degette Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (twice vetoed by President Bush) must be rewritten to include major money for the research.

The National Institutes of Health must no longer be ignored. The NIH was once the crown jewel of Earth’s research, and it must be so again. Its funding levels have been “flat-lined” for the past five years; costs have risen, but its funding has not even kept pace with inflation. When a patient’s vital signs flat-line, they need life support; so does the NIH.

We need help from every state.

At present, only a “Magnificent Seven” states provide funds for full stem cell research: California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, and Maryland. Even here, there is no room to relax, as advocates must fight to protect what has been won.

Not even the magnificent California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is safe. There is money for grant programs until July of this year, and enough to run the Institute itself (on a skeleton crew) for a year after that. But our funding comes from bonds which are sold, and that sale must be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury. If the financial conditions in the Golden State do not improve, and new bond sales are not allowed, California may be forced to do again what ICOC chair Bob Klein did to protect us before. When our funding was blocked by lawsuits, he and a dedicated few board members brought in loan/gifts from the public: a tremendously difficult job even then, and it will be immeasurably more difficult now.

And what about the states which still handcuff their scientists? Places like Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia still put ideological hurdles in front of researchers, sometimes calling them criminals, and threatening them with prosecution for their life-giving work.

Advocates in such states do have options: they can directly challenge the negative laws; or work around them, pushing for funding bills which support only adult stem cell research; or, they may prepare the state for tomorrow, giving educational talks to community organizations: such speeches are hugely influential, planting seeds for future growth and beneft.

One useful tool is a miniature research bill, like California’s Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act. It is tiny, just $1.5 million a year. But from that small beginning, a way to cure paralysis may spring. If you saw the paralyzed rats that walked again, scampering around a purple plastic swimming pool on TV, you saw “our” work. One influential scientist, Dr. Hans Keirstead, succeeded first with a Roman Reed grant, then used that success as leverage for larger grants from the NIH; That experiment (now funded by ground-breaking Geron) is under consideration by the FDA for human trials, the first in the world.

“Roman’s Law” has funded about $12 million in research over the few years of its existence—and quintupled that investment for the Golden State, bringing in an additional $50 million in matching funds from the feds, new money for our state—funding more than 50 scientists and their staffs, good jobs for our state and nation

Why not a regenerative research funding law in every state?

One immediate benefit would be funding for new scientists, the young ones all too often locked out of grants from the NIH. Because there is so little money in the National Institutes of Health budget, a scientist often won’t get help from this prime source until he or she reaches an average age of 43. A scientist who earns a doctor’s degree (a huge accomplishment) may not be able to make a living for the first twenty years in the field!

In these and other ways, small and large, our states and nations can work together. Every contribution helps: like little cloth squares, meaningless by themselves, but when combined into a patchwork quilt, bring warmth and comfort on a freezing Winter’s night.

Imagine how beautiful international research cooperation could be: like an Iranian/Israeli stem cell research institute. Why not? Both countries are strong supporters of stem cell research, everybody loves their children, and every family deserves access to the best medicine science can provide.

Already, the State of California is working with countries like Canada, Japan and the UK, finding ways to multiply our efforts, getting far more bang to the buck, while still spending the money inside the Golden State, as mandated by Proposition 71.

We must support the research where it grows; plant seeds where it is not—with a global stem cell research action plan.

Don C. Reed is Vice-President for Public Policy, Americans for Cures Foundation; his opinions may or may not reflect the views of the Foundation.

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Time to Tax? Or the Yant Alternative

TIME TO TAX? OR– THE YANT ALTERNATIVE

First, here is an argument FOR increased taxation of the very rich, the sort of folks for whom the first great Depression was a happy time: when prices were low, and servants worked cheap. For those who ignore the sufferings of millions, there may be no answer, except to tax.

But for the far-sighted, there is another way, which I will get to in a minute.

Part One: Time to Tax

“Let the rich alone,” said William F. Buckley, in a famous essay of 1968, and for forty years our country has taken that advice all too literally, as cornerstone financial policy.

Until very recently, the worst thing that could be said about a politician was to be labeled a “tax and spend” Democrat. Instead, we were told, the “unseen hand of the market” was cited as the answers to all ills.

In California, that attitude is enshrined in law. A virtually unattainable 2/3 majority is required to pass any new tax. The result? We once provided the best public school education country have fallen to 46th in per-pupil spending—and the Golden State is reportedly just weeks away from bankruptcy.

Nor is California alone in its difficulties. America is going broke: mired in debt, increasingly unable to pay our bills. One huge expense alone, ($2.3 trillion in medical costs), outstrips all federal income tax receipts (1.8 trillion) combined.

Real unemployment is close to 13%. The usual figure of 6.7% is misleading; if a person is out of work for more than a few weeks, they are considered to have given up seeking employment, and are not counted any more. But they have not gone away. They are still there, and are growing increasingly hungry.

The gap between rich and poor has widened, until the income of the top three hundred fifty thousand Americans is more than the bottom one hundred fifty million.

Is it not time to reconsider the dreaded “T word”?

Or have we forgotten what took us out of the first Great Depression?

Massive governmental spending taxed-and-spent us out of depression– and into the greatest lasting prosperity the world has ever known.

Soon, a new Administration will begin: a new President, a new Democratic majority in Congress and the Senate. We all wish them courage and wisdom for what lies ahead.

They must do what every politician dreads: inflicting new taxes on the very rich: requiring them to give back to the country which made their wealth possible.

To do otherwise is to break faith with a woman named Andrea, a 30-year-old injured military veteran, whose unemployment benefits just ran out.

As she walked away from the volunteer soup kitchen, not long before Christmas Day, Andrea carried a small frozen turkey, some canned vegetables, and a tub of sour cream, which was all that charity had left to give her.

The little bit of food would have to last. Andrea is also a mother, a single mom, raising a little girl on her own.

“I gave up on eating every day,” Andrea said, “I want to make sure what we have lasts for my daughter.”*

Voluntary charity is not enough for all the Andreas and their children in our country, the ten per cent of our population which goes to bed hungry every night.

America must not let her down.

It is time to tax.

• “Food stamp recipients have quadrupled in the past year, study shows”,
Karen de Sa, Fremont Argus, Bay Area News Group, 12/23/08

PART TWO:

OR—there is Bob Yant’s Way

Bob Yant is a gentle-voiced friend of scientific research– and of anybody in a wheelchair who wants to get out.

A mainstay of the research movement, Bob has been fighting for science many years, always with a smile, and the attitude that “wouldn’t it be great if it were possible to—“, so the ideas linger in the mind.

He can handle giant ideas, and “talk science” with the best of them.

And—he is a businessman. His product?

Excuse me, but I must get personal for a moment.

Anybody in a wheelchair knows that bathroom needs cannot be taken for granted.

Once paralyzed, never again is it enough to just say, “Hey, where is the restroom?”, and that is all it takes.

Assistance is required: like catheterization tubes that go inside the body.

A trustworthy product is needed. So, Bob designed his own catheterization gear, based not only on the most up-to-date science, but also backed by the irreplaceable knowledge of many years living in a chair.

I am no urologist to understand the medical side of such things.

But I know Bob Yant, and I trust him. In my opinion, any product he develops will be outstanding.

In a minute I will point you to his website.

But first, the reason for this editorial.

Because Bob also came up with an ALTERNATIVE TO TAXATION: his own personal
way to advance scientific research without being forced.

Instead of waiting to be taxed, the Yant approach was to voluntarily donate ten per cent of what he makes from the product, and give it to research.

I am no economist, but I cannot help wondering about the impact his example could bring. We already have a certain level of taxation, which has to be maintained, and loopholes closed: even the most tight-fisted of conservatives agree the national debt must be paid down, and there is no other way.

But what would happen if every company and wealthy individual followed the Yant example, and genuinely donated ten per cent of gross income to support a social goal?

There might be no need to increase taxation at all.

For a look at Bob Yant’s product, and his policy, go to http://www.curemedical.com.

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THE LONE STAR VOLUNTEERS, AND THE FAMILY OF CURE

By Don C. Reed

As friends of this column know, the past four years have been great fun for me. Not only have I been able to work with amazing people, doing exactly the kind of work I most enjoyed, but I received a part-time stipend from Americans for Cures Foundation for my out-of-state efforts. It was like being paid for vigorous fun.

Today, in the deepening winter of recession, it is much harder for non-profit organizations to gather donations for even part-time staff.

Chances are, I will be working volunteer again for a while.

I have applied to renew my teacher’s credential, and will substitute (ask any teacher what that small hell is like) 2-3 days a week. Subbing exhausts you. Every period is like the first day of school, when a teacher must prove himself, and fight. That is no problem, when the kids are going to be yours all year, because on the first day of school they are a little off-balance, and you just have to take charge immediately. After a few days they realize they can live with you, and teaching becomes a great job, although of course grossly underpaid.

But as a substitute, it is you who are off-balance. The kids are comfortable, and the sub is the outsider. The students mostly come to play, because they know you are not staying. If you intend to actually teach (and I don’t know any other way) it is a war. By the time they realize you intend to be taken seriously, it is the end of the period—and then the next class comes in, and the nightmare begins again—every period, all day, and it drains you, all that emotional fighting.

Unless I can find a grant, I will be doing advocacy work only in my spare time: twenty to thirty hours a week instead of sixty-to-eighty.

This will of course diminish my efficiency—but I have been there before. Part-time volunteer work was what I did in the first decade of the advocacy adventure.

So, what can a part-time volunteer do?

Practically anything.

It is easier with a budget, no question: but the vast majority of stem cell research advocates everywhere are zero-budget folks.

Right now, I can think of ten chores that can be done by people without money.

1. develop a state stem cell research funding bill;
2. establish a state “permissions” bill, for scientific freedom;
3. develop and deliver informational presentations to advance awareness;
4. help elect Congressional and Senatorial candidates who back research;
5. support ongoing legislative efforts already begun by other advocates;
6. oppose anti-research laws by speaking/writing/organizing;
7. use Google alerts to keep in touch with regenerative medical progress;
8. support efforts to at least double NIH funding;
9. work to block the annual renewal of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment;
10. respond to articles in the press, either positive or negative.
These are “doable”; I have done them, (with the help of hundreds of hard-working friends) and am trying to do them again, all on a volunteer basis.

Most advocates never receive a salary at all. The most important work of their lives is done “for free”.

Look at the amazing efforts of CAMR, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, our voice in Washington—I think they have one and a half paid staff—all the rest volunteer their services.

Look at the Texas folks: like Joe and Nina Brown, Judy Haley, Beckie McCleery and other Lone Star volunteers: people like Val, Kathy, Laura, Susan, Chris, Larry, Dianne, Wendy, Bill, Jennifer, Ellen, Cheryl, Gerald, Ralph, Clarence, Michael, Harry and Kent, to name a few.

If any of those endlessly-working people receives a salary, I would be delighted—(talk about justified!)—and, unfortunately, surprised.

These are folks who are willing to drive to the state Capitol in the middle of the night, when hearings may be suddenly called about stem cell issues. In addition to trying to follow and understand the science, and to communicate it to others, including the press, they spend countless hours arguing with legislators all too often under the thumb of the religious right.

Texas is controlled by a party which lets its science policy be determined by an ultra-conservative religious minority: remember, the current Republican party platform calls for the complete elimination of embryonic stem cell research.

It must feel like trying to dig water wells in the Sahara desert.

And yet, the Texan stem cell research community continues to fight.

I remember an old boxer saying, “sometimes you win by just hanging on, waiting for an opportunity.” They do a lot of that in Texas, fighting to defeat rotten bills that would deny the hope of cure to millions, while at the same time trying to pass good bills they know do not have a prayer of passing.

Why do they do it, month after month, year after year? Same reason as always, because their loved ones are at risk. They are fighting for their families, and yours and mine.

For one thing, they understand that cure research is a way to stabilize the economy. They know that of America’s $2.3 trillion medical costs last year, 75% was spent on the care of folks who have incurable (chronic) disease or disability. That mountainous medical bill is a key reason our economy is starting to fail. Cure diabetes? That would save roughly a fifth of a trillion dollars.

They know that every step to advance regenerative medicine not only brings our families closer to safety from disease and disability, but also is a direct help to America’s faltering economic system.

These are far-seeing folks: like the people who built the library in my hometown of Fremont.

If you visit our library sometime, you will find it jam-packed with happy people—probably none of whom ever stop and think, hmmm, how many council meetings had to be sat through, how many government officials had to be approached by unpaid volunteers, (a group called “Friends of the Library”), how many booksales, how many campaigns to try and get funding for this building and its books.

And, one suspects, this is how it has always been: behind every victory are the efforts of many people, uncredited, unpaid; and who may not even get to see their horse come in.

But we know. And when America finally grabs hold of the biomedical revolution, and cure begins to happen, it will be because of people like the Lone Star volunteers.

If you don’t mind working free, (which by definition means part-time, because you have to do something else to pay the rent) there are endless jobs that need doing in your state’s collegiate, legislative, charitable, or business arena.

For me, the first priority is putting pressure on government to fund basic research for cure, laying the ground work for private enterprise, so they can get involved when financially sensible. It may cost as much as a billion dollars to develop a single drug, bringing it from the scientist’s lab to people’s medicine cabinet; it is unreasonable to expect the companies to pay for everyone else’s research as well. Funding basic research is what the public sector does best, from the smallest state funding bill, to the National Institutes of Health, the NIH.

Eventually, the giant corporations will be ”forced” to invest in regenerative medicine. Businesspeople cannot overlook a burgeoning opportunity.

But first, states and national government agencies must to do their share.

And who will exert this pressure on our elected government, in a country which not only allows citizen involvement, but encourages it, depends on it?

That would be us.

We may never meet in person, you and I, never have the chance to shake hands and laugh, hug and have dinner, babble over coffee, share advocate war stories and pictures of our kids.

But we are brothers and sisters in struggle just the same.

We are the family of cure.

Happy New Year!

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