When we were shooting the elevator pitches at the grantee meeting one thing that struck me was how passionate many of the scientists are about the diseases they are trying to treat. Of those, Carrie Miceli and Stanley Nelson of UCLA stood out. They are a husband and wife team whose son has muscular dystrophy. When he was diagnosed they changed the focus of their labs to find a therapy for the deadly disease. Now they have an early translation award to attempt to take their approach to clinical trials.
I’ve noticed over the years that researchers working on Huntington’s disease often form close relationships with the community of people who have lost family members and are at risk themselves. Both Leslie Thompson of UC Irvine and Vicki Wheelock of UC Davis recorded pitches talking about their approaches and I think their commitment to the Huntington’s community really comes through. In hers, Thompson says “I’m extremely hopeful, more so than ever in my career.” Having met many of the people in the Huntington’s community over the past few years, I know that sense of hope is greatly needed.
Both Victoria Bendersky and Anjana Nityanandam of Scripps Research Institute (who sent in pitches they’d recorded on their own) also give compelling descriptions of why it’s so important to find therapies for their respective diseases. They are in good company with Jeanne Loring, also from Scripps, who submitted not one but two pitches about different approaches to treating patients (Parkinson’s and MS).
As a tax-payer myself, I like knowing that state funds are going to scientists to are so committed to finding new therapies. I’ll add that as a former woman in science (turned woman talking about science) I also appreciate the number of women who are leading the development of new therapies, many of whom, not surprisingly (to me at least) also gave some of the most passionate pitches for why their research is important. For more pitches by women who are leading therapy development efforts, it’s also worth watching Roberta Brinton, Jill Helms, and Catriona Jamieson.