Last month, I attended my first Partnering for Cures in New York. An annual conference ran by the Milken Institute’s Faster Cures, P4C gathers non-profits, biotechs, government agencies, and patient advocates to discuss progress, share best practices, and address common issues in finding cures. Many different diseases are represented at the conference, from rare syndromes, to the most common cancers. Regardless the disease, consistent throughout is the passion and commitment with which attendees conduct their work.
P4C was easily the most inspired event I participated in this year, so it is hard to pick highlights, but here are just a few:
- Time=Lives talks: These 10 minute presentations to the plenary featured bright, driven individuals whose families (and in some cases, the speakers themselves), had been touched by currently incurable diseases. The can-do attitude of these speakers was incredibly humbling. We heard from Ilan Ganot, a former banker who shifted careers to found a company focused on curing Duchenne muscular dystrophy when his young son was diagnosed. We learned from Sonia Vallabh and her husband Eric Minikel, who witnessed Sonia’s mother succumb to prion disease, and upon finding out that Sonia also had the defective gene, went back to school to work on a cure themselves, and are now completing PhDs at Harvard Medical School.
- A panel on mysteries of the human brain, featuring Meryl Comer, Executive Director of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative. On stage as in life, Meryl eloquently combined advocacy for patient and care givers, while debating the lasted research developments, tying in the conference themes of faster cures and patient-centred care. Her honest account of life is a care giver is the topic of her incredibly moving new book, “Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s” (all proceeds go to Alzheimer’s research), and one of her most recent research projects was a challenge we collaborated on last year.
- The Crowdsourcing Cures breakfast I had the pleasure of co-hosting with Conquer Paralysis Now CEO Ida Cahill and Cures Within Reach Director Amy Conn. Ida shared her Foundation’s story of deciding to launch a Spinal Cord Injury Grand Challenge (we launched last week!), and the group discussed challenge programs from Cleveland Clinic’s pavilion to Prize4Life’s quest for a biomarker over coffee.
The best part about P4C was the feeling of momentum. From the small foundations to the biggest pharmaceuticals, it was clear that no one was there to write a cheque and blindly hope things were going in the right direction. For faster cures, business as usual is not enough, and this was a crowd actively committed to trying new research tools, new business models, and new ideas, all in the name of a cure.
Siobhán Gibney Gomis, Vice President, Business Development for Canada, Pacific Northwest and Global Nonprofits at InnoCentive