Posts Tagged ‘investors’

The Big Picture

August 30, 2012

For most of the summer I have been writing content and assisting with the design of our new U2FP website. At times tedious, at times a labor of love, this exercise triggered a lot of reflection on how we have grown and evolved in the 5 years since our last website remodel.

For me personally, my U2FP journey has been a hugely educational experience on many fronts:

  • Understanding the science. This is an ongoing process, especially in such a complex field as neuroscience and regeneration. It’s not unlike learning about all the complications of a spinal cord injury. Slowly but surely we grasp the terminology, the sometimes grim realities, and finally a sense of what it will take to make things better.
  • Assessing the landscape. Where does curing paralysis stand in the broader field of medical research and translation? When we identify good science, how do we attract investors and bring it to clinical trial? How can we make our cause a priority amongst such worthy competition? The answers to these questions change with the financial and political winds.
  • Connecting with the community. This is far and away the most rewarding aspect of my job and the most energizing. It’s easy to get bogged down in the daily details of managing our programs – trying to catch up on emails, attending to the minutiae of organizing a conference, satisfying the various regulatory requirements. Just when I think that’s what my job is, I’ll hear from or read about or meet someone living with a spinal cord injury who is working so hard to make the very best out of a tough hand.

It’s a welcome reminder that in the end, our mission and our goals are about people. Less than 2 years after my son’s injury in 2002, I remember an “ah-ha” moment when I thought about all the extraordinary people we had met on the post-SCI journey. In order to make the best out of this life, you have to operate at a much higher level of purpose. You have to practice positive thinking on a daily basis; it’s so easy to falter.

For today, as we celebrate the launch of our new website, I want to take a moment to thank all of the people I have met along the way: for your courage, your determination, your perseverance, your grace, and for enriching my life.

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Why Are We Still Paralyzed?

April 11, 2012

It’s a pretty basic question for a Cure Warrior.  As we ponder the multifaceted answers to that question, we begin to grasp the enormity of the task in front of us.   What are the biggest challenges?

  1. Scientific: Figuring out how to regenerate the appropriate pathways that will bring about functional MOTOR recovery in the chronic injury.  As we begin to experiment with therapies in humans, we’ll then need to identify the best DELIVERY method(s).
  2. Translation: Okay, we’ve had success with a couple of therapies in the laboratory.  How do we raise the money, get regulatory approval, and enroll enough patients to run a human clinical trial?  As a case in point, the Geron trial proved to be a massive and ultimately failed undertaking.  They ran out of money and couldn’t enroll sufficient patients before they could prove much of anything.
  3. Marketing: Any investor looking to bring a therapy to market had better have an excellent business plan, or the therapy will never reach widespread use.  We have seen this play out with the introduction of several neurotechnology devices.  Many of these tools have proven to be beneficial for clients, but implementation is hindered by lack of awareness and/or failure of insurance companies to cover.
  4. Apathy: The SCI community suffers from a lack of focus and energy when it comes to pushing for curative therapies.  We all know how living with SCI drains one’s physical, financial, and emotional resources.  And to date, we haven’t seen anything in the way of a tangible scientific breakthrough to galvanize the troops.

How can you or I address these challenges in a meaningful way?  First and foremost, and I know I’m repeating myself, STUDY THE SCIENCE!  For starters, you’ll need to understand the terminology.  The more reading you do, the more researchers you talk to, the more leaders you network with, the more you will get comfortable in the conversation.

Where to start?  Check out the U2FP Clinical Trials Table for continuous updates on what’s happening in the field and an introduction to acronyms.  Read our lay-friendly reports from recent lab visits with top researchers.  Join us at the Working 2 Walk Symposium in Irvine, California, this November.

We need people with knowledge and passion to join this fight and commit to the long-term.  If we can invent the atom bomb, if we can put humans on the moon, if we can map the human genome, surely we can repair the injured spinal cord.  It’s all about priorities.  Making a difference starts with us, and I look forward to the day when we don’t have to ask the question, “Why are we still paralyzed?”

It’s Business, Not Personal

August 25, 2011

Let’s face it.  Finding curative therapies for paralysis is a business every step of the way.  It starts in the laboratory, where a research team has to:

  1. Sell an idea that will earn a grant to secure funding for lab equipment and personnel;
  2. Sell the progress of their laboratory research to raise more money until a hoped-for breakthrough is achieved;
  3. Sell the story of a unique discovery to a peer-reviewed journal for publication;
  4. Sell the science to an investor who will start the process of bringing it to market.
If and when a potential therapy goes to an investor, another cycle begins.  The investor has to:
  1. Raise the money to fund a clinical trial (millions of $$$);
  2. Write a comprehensive proposal to meet FDA standards for approval;
  3. In many cases negotiate with the FDA for months to years over therapy details – dosages, method of delivery, patients accepted, etc.  In the eyes of the FDA, many of the newer cell therapies are moving into uncharted territory, and they are acting with extreme caution;
  4. If the first phases of the trial are successful, continue to raise money to fund later phases.

All of the above has taken several years and an enormous amount of time, effort and money to achieve.  And at this stage the therapy is still not available to patients.  If in fact it has shown clear benefit and the FDA approves, what’s it going to cost the consumer?  Will insurance pay for it?

Seattle Genetics just made the headlines by setting the cost of its new drug for lymphoma at $100,000 for one course of treatment.  Bone Marrow stem cell transplants, which have been available for decades, can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 with many variables in insurance coverage.  Regenerative therapies for spinal cord injury will not come cheap.

When you’re living with paralysis on a daily basis, it’s easy to get frustrated with the slow pace of progress.  At the same time it’s important to understand that moving a therapy from bench to bedside can be just as complex a problem as repairing the spinal cord.  Once you grasp the process, it’s easier to decide where you want to direct your fundraising and advocacy efforts.


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