The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, a two-day conference held in La Jolla, Calif. by The Atlantic magazine and UC San Diego, crescendoed with its final panel, titled “Truth is What Stands the Test of Experience: The Challenges of Scientific Research and Philanthropy.” If that seems like a mouthful, be assured the panelists were at no loss for words on the subject.
“I am a big believer in basic research,” said Greg Lucier, CEO of Life Technologies and former chair of Sanford-Burnham’s board of trustees. A leader in the biotechnology industry, Lucier expressed many of the same hopes and goals as his fellow panelists, a fundraiser and a researcher. Debi Brooks, co-founder and executive vice chairman of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Santosh Kesari, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of neuro-oncology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, both expressed the need for increased funding for research. Moderator Steve Clemons, editor-at-large for The Atlantic, expressed his admiration for all that each of these three have accomplished for their own organizations, and for what those accomplishments mean for the greater good.
Diseases, the panelists agreed, can be defeated only when we understand the causes, identify biomarkers, and test potential drugs. Though advances currently being made in biology are ”staggering,” to use Lucier’s word, we must keep the momentum, something he fears the U.S. may be losing. Brooks pointed out that while many fundraising organizations do an excellent job of supporting patients and their families, few of them focus on research.
They noted the need for both philanthropic and government investment. Lucier, Brooks, and Kesari all agreed that looming cuts to the NIH budget are a serious threat. However, they also noted that the NIH should use whatever funding it does get more efficiently. Since the ultimate goal of most biomedical research is to find treatments and cures, the panelists felt that funding decisions should be guided by the need to bridge the so-called “valley of death” to move discoveries closer to the bedside.
Lucier went on to say that more spending on medical research means a higher standard of living for everyone. As an individual, you can support medial research directly by donating to non-profit research institutions like Sanford-Burnham.