Don Reed Reflects on the California Stem Cell Initiative

StemCellBattlesCoverYesterday was stem cell awareness day. In honor of this important event, Don Reed held a book reading at CIRM for his newly released book, STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease.

Don has worn many hats during his life. He’s been a power lifter, a diver at Sea World, and is one of California’s most tenacious stem cell research advocates. His stem cell journey began when his son, Roman Reed, was seriously injured in a football accident, leaving him mostly paralyzed from the neck down.

Both Don and Roman didn’t let this tragic event ruin their lives or steal their hope. In fact, both Don and his son were instrumental for getting proposition 71 to pass, leading to the birth of CIRM and new hope for patients with uncured diseases.

At yesterday’s book reading, Don chronicled the early battles to get human stem cell research off the ground in California, the progress that’s been made so far and the promise for future therapies. It was truly an inspiring event, bringing together patients, friends of Don and his wife Gloria, and CIRM scientists to celebrate the stem cell research accomplishments of the past ten years.

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Enjoy more pictures of the event below and a short video of Jonathan Thomas, Chair of the Governing Board of CIRM, who said a few words in praise of Don Reed’s efforts to fight for stem cell research in California.

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Don Reed and his wife Gloria share a smile with CIRM’s Pat Olson.

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Jonathan Thomas and Don Reed.


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Seeing is believing: using video to explain stem cell science

People are visual creatures. So it’s no surprise that many of us learn best through visual means. In fact a study by the Social Science Research Network found that 65 percent of us are visual learners.

That’s why videos are such useful tools in teaching and learning, and that’s why when we came across a new video series called “Reaping the rewards of stem cell research” we were pretty excited. And to be honest there’s an element of self-interest here. The series focuses on letting people know all about the research funded by CIRM.

We didn’t make the videos, a group called Youreka Science is behind them. Nor did we pay for them. That was done by a group called Americans for Cures (the group is headed by Bob Klein who was the driving force behind Proposition 71, the voter-approved initiative that created the stem cell agency). Nonetheless we are happy to help spread the word about them.

The videos are wonderfully simple, involving just an engaging voice, a smart script and some creative artwork on a white board. In this first video they focus on our work in helping fund stem cell therapies for type 1 diabetes.

What is so impressive about the video is its ability to take complex ideas and make them easily understandable. On their website Youreka Science says they have a number of hopes for the videos they produce:

“How empowering would it be for patients to better understand the underlying biology of their disease and learn how new treatments work to fight their illness?

How enlightening would it be for citizens to be part of the discovery process and see their tax dollars at work from the beginning?

How rewarding would it be for scientists to see their research understood and appreciated by the very people that support their work?”

What I love about Youreka Science is that it began almost by chance. A PhD student at the University of California San Francisco was teaching some 5th graders about science and thought it would be really cool to have a way of bringing the textbook to life. So she did. And now we all get to benefit from this delightful approach.

New Stem Cell Book Chronicles California’s Fight Against Incurable Disease

In 2098, the world will mark 100 years since the first isolation of human embryonic stem cells. The historians of that time undoubtedly will praise the countless stem cell researchers who fought incurable, chronic disease and won – saving lives and transforming medicine in the process.

StemCellBattlesCoverBut they’ll also applaud the efforts of non-scientists like Don Reed, a tenacious advocate for stem cell research and for people living with chronic disease and disability. No doubt those future historians will heavily reference Don’s soon to be released book, STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease. Through first-hand accounts, he chronicles the early battles to get human stem cell research off the ground in California, the progress that’s been made so far and the promise for future therapies.

It’s no coincidence that Stem Cell Battles will hit the bookshelves on October 14th, World Stem Cell Awareness Day. In anticipation of the book’s release, Don will blog every Wednesday from now until then.

Each week, the blog series will focus on one incurable disease or injury and describe the CIRM-funded project teams aiming to develop stem cell-based treatments. Yesterday’s blog is devoted to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

We enjoy his easy to understand writing style peppered with concrete statistics that puts the disease’s impact in perspective. We also appreciate the fact Don speaks highly of CIRM’s accomplishments. But please know that we didn’t put him up to it. We are not paying Don or doing anything other than providing him with whatever information he asked for, the same way we work with any journalist, writer or member of the public.

Follow Don’s disease-a-week series at his blog, Stem Cell Battles.