Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Rainbow Beckons

Big money  creates Big dreams. If you have three billion to spare, why not aim high.
Such is the plan of the  Chan Zuckerberg Science Initiative - Dr. Priscilla, a pediatrician, and her husband Jeff, the founder of Facebook (who have said they intend to give away 99 percent of their money eventually). Their goal is to line up support from basic science and technology sectors  to  manage,  prevent or cure all major diseases by the century's end. Not a small feat, as outlined in the recent AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy  in Washington, D.C. by the project's leader  Dr. Cori Bargmann, a neurobiologist and geneticist who carries several heavyweight titles around on her attractive blonde head. One of the other officers, a 'president of policy,' is David Plouffe, perhaps best known as former advisor to Uber and better known for his leading role in President Obama's 20008 election.
The gamble certainly is worth every penny, but the trick is coordinating among the many busy researchers in the field. (Remember Obama's BRAIN Initiative, still ongoing.) Any Human Cell Atlas has to be almost unimaginably extensive, considering that there are an (estimated?) 30 trillion cells in the human body and about 3,000 papers are published daily in the biomedical field. How to keep up? Start charting, use artificial intelligence, think of those suffering today from incurable neurodegenerative and rare diseases.
A far cry from an afternoon session on the "Opioid Epidemic" that brought together a San Francisco primary care doctor and epidemiologist and his message that the number of heroin overdose victims  has doubled since 2010 with an especially dramatic rise in New England; the deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse saying that pain reliever fentanyl, made in China, is distributed by mail since its high potency means it can be shipped in small dosages and that up to 70 percent of people in state prisons are addicted to one drug or another; and an Ohio Court of Common Pleas judge working to raise public awareness and prevention noting that in 2016 alone there were 35,000 deaths from opioid overuse, versus 55,000 American deaths in the entire Vietnam war. 

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