Every so often you hear a story and your first reaction is “oh, I have to share this with someone, anyone, everyone.” That’s what happened to me the other day.
I was talking with Kristin MacDonald, an amazing woman, a fierce patient advocate and someone who took part in a CIRM-funded clinical trial to treat retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The disease had destroyed Kristin’s vision and she was hoping the therapy, pioneered by jCyte, would help her. Kristin, being a bit of a pioneer herself, was the first person to test the therapy in the U.S.
Anyway, Kristin was doing a Zoom presentation and wanted to look her best so she asked a friend to come over and do her hair and makeup. The woman she asked, was Rosie Barrero, another patient in that RP clinical trial. Not so very long ago Rosie was legally blind. Now, here she was helping do her friend’s hair and makeup. And doing it beautifully too.
That’s when you know the treatment works. At least for Rosie.
There are many other stories to be heard – from patients and patient advocates, from researchers who develop therapies to the doctors who deliver them. – at our CIRM 2020 Grantee Meeting on next Monday September 14th Tuesday & September 15th.
It’s two full days of presentations and discussions on everything from heart disease and cancer, to COVID-19, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and spina bifida. Here’s a link to the Eventbrite page where you can find out more about the event and also register to be part of it.
Like pretty much everything these days it’s a virtual event so you’ll be able to join in from the comfort of your kitchen, living room, even the backyard.
And it’s free!
You can join us for all two days or just one session on one day. The choice is yours. And feel free to tell your friends or anyone else you think might be interested.
It’s not often you get a chance to hear some of the brightest minds around talk about their stem cell research and what it could mean for you, me and everyone else. That’s why we’re delighted to be bringing some of the sharpest tools in the stem cell shed together in one – virtual – place for our CIRM 2020 Grantee Meeting.
The event is Monday September 14th and Tuesday September 15th. It’s open to anyone who wants to attend and, of course, it’s all being held online so you can watch from the comfort of your own living room, or garden, or wherever you like. And, of course, it’s free.
Dr. Daniela Bota, UC Irvine
The list of speakers is a Who’s Who of researchers that CIRM has funded and who also happen to be among the leaders in the field. Not surprising as California is a global center for regenerative medicine. And you will of course be able to post questions for them to answer.
Dr. Deepak Srivastava, Gladstone Institutes
The key speakers include:
Larry Goldstein: the founder and director of the UCSD Stem Cell Program talking about Alzheimer’s research
Irv Weissman: Stanford University talking about anti-cancer therapies
Other topics include the latest stem cell approaches to COVID-19, spinal cord injury, blindness, Parkinson’s disease, immune disorders, spina bifida and other pediatric disorders.
You can choose one topic or come both days for all the sessions. To see the agenda for each day click here. Just one side note, this is still a work in progress so some of the sessions have not been finalized yet.
And when you are ready to register go to our Eventbrite page. It’s simple, it’s fast and it will guarantee you’ll be able to be part of this event.
At first glance, a scientific conference is not the place you would think about going to learn about how to run a political or any other kind of campaign. But then the ISSCR Annual Meeting is not your average conference. And that’s why CIRM is there and has been going to these events for as long as we have been around.
For those who don’t know, ISSCR is the International Society
for Stem Cell Research. It’s the global industry representative for the field
of stem cell research. It’s where all the leading figures in the field get
together every year to chart the progress in research.
But it’s more than just the science that gets discussed. One of the panels kicking off this year’s conference was on ‘Why is it Important to Communicate with Policy Makers, the Media and the Public?” It was a wide-ranging discussion on the importance of learning the best ways for the scientific community to explain what it is they do, why they do it, and why people should care.
Morrison, a former President of ISSCR, talked about his experience
trying to pass a bill in Michigan that would enable scientists to do embryonic
stem cell research. At the time CIRM was spending millions of dollars funding
scientists in California to create new lines of embryonic stem cells; in
Michigan anyone doing the same could be sent to prison for a year. He said the
opposition ran a fear-based campaign, lying about the impact the bill would
have, that it would enable scientists to create half man-half cow creatures
(no, really) or human clones. Learning to counter those without descending to
their level was challenging, but ultimately Morrison was successful in
overcoming opposition and getting the bill passed.
Temple, of the Neural Stem Cell Institute, talked about testifying
to a Congressional committee about the importance of fetal tissue research and
faced a barrage of hostile questions that misrepresented the science and
distorted her views. In contrast Republicans on the committee had invited a group
that opposed all fetal tissue research and fed them a bunch of softball
questions; the answers the group gave not only had no scientific validity, they
were just plain wrong. Fortunately, Temple says she had done a lot of
preparation (including watching two hours Congressional hearings on C-SPAN to understand how these hearings
worked) and had her answers ready. Even so she said one of the big lessons she
stressed is the need to listen to what others are saying and respond in ways
that address their fears and don’t just dismiss them.
Other presenters talked about their struggles with different
issues and different audiences but similar experiences; how do you communicate
clearly and effectively. The answer is actually pretty simple. You talk to
people in a way they understand with language they understand. Not with dense
scientific jargon. Not with reams of data. Just by telling simple stories that
illustrate what you did and who it helped or might help.
The power of ISSCR is that it can bring together a roomful
of brilliant scientists from all over the world who want to learn about these
things, who want to be better communicators. They know that much of the money
for scientific research comes from governments or state agencies, that this is
public money, and that if the public is going to continue to support this
research it needs to know how that money is being spent.
That’s a message CIRM has been promoting for years. We know
that communicating with the public is not an option, it’s a responsibility.
That’s why, at a time when the very notion of science sometimes seems to be
under attack, and the idea of public funding for that science is certainly
under threat, having meetings like this that brings researchers together and
gives them access to new tools is vital. The tools they can “get” at ISSCR are
ones they might never learn in the lab, but they are tools that might just mean
they get the money needed to do the work they want to.