Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bringing you more highlights from the Global Conference

The Milken Institute Global Conference is now in full swing. The program agenda reflects hot button issues that dominate news headlines, board meetings and watercooler conversations – the credit crunch, war in Iraq, subprime mortgages, and the rising costs of healthcare. Having the opportunity to hear some of the world’s best minds opine on our weightiest issues and point to solutions sets this conference apart from all others.

Here are quick takes on some of Monday’s sessions. Summaries are available on the FasterCures Web site.
  • Forum on the Future. NIH’s Anthony Fauci, the nation’s infectious disease expert, Microsoft’s Peter Neupert, head of the technology giant’s health solutions effort, and Weill Cornell Medical College’s Eva Vertes, a cancer researcher challenging conventional wisdom and redefining what we know, engaged in a spirited discussion of the risks and promise of 21st century healthcare. FasterCures’ Greg Simon moderated the discussion, provoking interesting responses on a wide range of topics including emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, cancer research and treatment, bioterrorism, and information technology.
  • An Unhealthy America. Chronic diseases have become the single greatest threat to public health and the healthcare system and these diseases are either caused or exacerbated by obesity. Left unattended, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who moderated the panel said that this “will be the first generation of children who will live shorter lives than their parents”. A diverse panel of experts including Safeway CEO Steven Burd, health economist Tomas Philipson, diabetes expert Fran Kaufman, fitness entrepreneur Mark Mastrov, and Milken Institute’s Ross DeVol spoke to a room packed with an audience with an even greater array of expertise. The panel looked at the extent of the problem, its consequences, and possible solutions to turn the tide on this major health concern.
  • Revolutionizing Health Care and Research in the Developing World. The panel featured 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank, speaking about “microcredit loans.” When Yunus began Grameen Bank he loaned a total of $27 among 42 people. Today, Yunus loans on average, anywhere from $10 to $150 to 7.5 million people, 97 percent of those being poor women. Most of the money loaned financed fruit and vegetable seeds for planting, clean water, housing, and sanitary latrines. Yunus believes that social businesses should not be in it to make a profit and that any money made should stay with the company to improve their delivery systems. This was just one example of how individual business models are revolutionizing the delivery of healthcare to the poor in the developing world.
  • Pursuing your Passion. The day could not have ended on a better note. Three of the biggest legends of our time graced the conference and shared how they went confidently in the direction of their dreams, pursued these with passion, and lived to tell the story:

  • Peter Diamandis of the X PRIZE Foundation, which sponsored
    competitions for private-sector spaceflight, super fuel-efficient vehicles and
    rapid human-genome sequencing, aspires to no less than “bringing about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”
  • Elaine Wynn, equally well-known as a passionate children’s advocate and patron of education, for decades has led initiatives to improve education in Nevada and the nation.
  • Quincy Jones, through the Project Q Foundation, works to improve the well-being of children in developing countries, and champions myriad other causes from music to medical research and more.
Mike Milken, a passionate innovator and advocate himself, moderated the panel, exploring the common thread that made each of the speakers such effective catalysts for positive change.

I will continue to update this blog and post session summaries, but also be sure to visit the Milken Institute’s Global Conference site for video streams and the latest developments.

--Cecilia O. Arradaza, FasterCures, Communications Director

Monday, April 28, 2008

Live update from the Global Conference

The breadth and depth of the program in this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference is astounding. Session topics range from the economy to energy, housing to healthcare. And experts in each panel offer informed, unique, and cutting-edge insights that stimulate trends and move markets.

Over the next few days, I will leave behind a trail of thought crumbs as I navigate my first global conference. I joined FasterCures as communications director a week ago today. I’m excited to be part of this renowned conference and see for myself what the buzz is all about. I will particularly note sessions in the Health Track that influence the work we do at FasterCures, as well as sessions that touch on health.

Check in with us throughout the conference as we update this blog and post session summaries.
Sunday, April 27, 2008, 2pm: Longevity: Adding Years to Life and Life to Years

In 2004, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that there were an estimated 60,800 centenarians (those age 100 and older) in the United States. As more and more people around the world live longer, longevity has become a topic that’s getting mixed reviews: some eagerly anticipate life’s golden years and there are those who dread the inevitable.

A growing body of evidence supporting healthy and graceful aging may be key to changing your longevity perception. Experts on a longevity panel discussion acknowledged the remarkable gains made in healthy living and particularly noted how these gains are not always driven by modern technology. Some food for thought:
  • “Everyday measures are tremendously potent to help us live longer,” said Gary Small, M.D., director of UCLA’s Center on Aging. Small emphasized lifestyle, diet, exercise, and mental aerobics as some factors that could help ensure successful aging.
  • “Prevention is key. It’s your best shot at successful aging,” said Greg Cole, associate director of UCLA’s Alzheimer’s Center. Cole was optimistic about the state of Alzheimer’s disease research, pointing to three reasons:
    1) scientific evidence shows that only one-third of Alzheimer’s disease cases are solely because of genetics while the rest are influenced by lifestyle choices;
    2) technology now allows us to detect changes in the brain; and
    3) there is a rich pipeline of new drugs and vaccines.
So, as Greg Simon, FasterCures president, who moderated the panel asked, are we conquering death or living life?
--Cecilia O. Arradaza, FasterCures, Communications Director

Thursday, April 24, 2008

FasterCures at the 2008 Global Conference

Some of the world’s most extraordinary minds - CEOs from top-tier companies, senior foreign and U.S. government officials, high-level executives in the capital markets, global academic experts and leaders in education, health care and philanthropy – will convene April 28-30 in Los Angeles for the Milken Institute Global Conference. Discussions focus on finding solutions to some of our most serious global challenges, from climate change to the future of healthcare.

Visit the FasterCures Web site and blog next week for real-time updates from the Global Conference and to view summaries of sessions in the health & medical research track. Summaries will also be featured in next week’s issues of FasterCures SmartBrief.

Sign-up for FasterCures SmartBrief: http://fastercures.org/subscribe/?Email=%20enter%20email

For complete session and panel information please visit: http://www.fastercures.org/voice/events/summaries/

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

Greg Simon, President of FasterCures recently coined the phrase “passion capital” to describe the money raised by TRAIN groups such as the CF Foundation and Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He mentioned it at a recent BIO-sponsored forum on venture philanthropy where a variety of nonprofits came together to learn from each other. Venture philanthropy has been a hot topic for a while now, and is often hyped as a potential source of funding to fill the void left by a flat NIH budget and stretched pharma/bio research budgets. At a time when you can’t read the paper or hear the news without bumping into a story about the demands of this tight economy on just about every sector of our economy, it is clear that the biomedical research infrastructure is feeling the pinch as well.

Many have ideas about what is working and not working. At a recent Health Research Alliance meeting I attended, Lee Hood talked of the need to catalyze change in research, and steer clear of competing with NIH. He spoke of the need for cross-disciplinary teams to tackle leading problems in medicine. Bill Haseltine talked about how we need a more virtual pharma model that separates R&D from marketing. Amy McGuire-Porter of the Foundation for NIH spoke about how their organization was created during the doubling of the NIH budget and now the need for resources to help increase the NIH payline has taken on a much higher priority. Nancy Andrews of Duke University Medical School talked about the shrinking numbers of physician-scientists, and the challenges of paying overhead functions in her current budget.

Alan M. Krensky of the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives told us at a recent National Health Council briefing that the NIH mission is about both generating knowledge and improving the public’s health. I pointed out that the tension arises when disease areas aren’t getting adequate attention from NIH or institute directors tire of interacting with disease advocates, which has fostered the creation of many of the venture philanthropy groups.

Is there room for everyone to work on their piece of the biomedical research puzzle? Of course. Will everyone have to be incredibly thoughtful about which dollars go where? Of course. Will increasing the payline at NIH translate into more innovation? Not sure. Just as those spending passion capital need to plot out their scientific agenda and map it to their resources, every entity in the biomedical research system will need to do the same. Everyone is already figuring out how to maximize efficiency. It’s no different than the chef in a recent news story who spoke about his team is a bit more careful about breaking eggs, and they are being more frugal with what is wasted in their restaurant kitchen. I think the jury is out about how fast the resources that the TRAIN/venture philanthropy groups will grow, so the idea that they’ll fill the funding void may not come to pass. But clearly their thirst for pursuing best practices to foster the most innovation in their research portfolio is a given. At FasterCures, we’ll continue to shine a light on this innovation and share those best practices. There is not a minute, or a life to lose.

Margaret Anderson, COO, FasterCures