This year’s Thanksgiving, for me, was the usual full-belly stuff-a-thon, eating too much and regretting it later—too many sit-ups ahead before I have a waistline again.


Question is: will next year bring an anti-Thanksgiving?  Will we look around and find things worse, so we have a lot less to be thankful for?


It is a time of worry now, as if the good years are all gone, and only hungry ones ahead.


Those fears are real, and I do not mock them.


But there are other possibilities, such as that we may be fumbling our way toward the best of times—in our lifetime we may find a way to solve cancer, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injury– not only to ease suffering, but to help fix the economy, world-wide.


Here are some of my hopes for next year…


First, my Americans for Cures Foundation work. As regular readers of this column know, I work part-time for that organization, on out-of-state, federal, and international issues. (Americans for Cures Foundation, by the way, is not responsible for my opinions. When I step up to the mike in public comment time at the California stem cell meetings, or write about our state’s stem cell policies in this column, I am speaking as an individual: someone who has supported regenerative research for more than fourteen years,  including helping develop, pass, and implement the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999.) In the months ahead, I hope to collaborate with Americans for Cures Foundation advocates like Amy Daly and Jacqueline Hantgan  on such issues as:


  • Supporting the FDA as it develops safety guidelines for human embryonic stem cell clinical trials and therapies;


  • Strengthening our Speakers Bureau, so every state has patient advocates ready to support stem cell research;


  • Removing or revising the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (DWA), currently used by ideologues to block federal funding of promising forms of stem cell research.


Those are a few possibilities; the group will decide which ones (or others) go forward.


There are also ideas I hope to advance as an individual, including:


  • Doubling the NIH (National Institutes for Health) funding. Many folks tell me this is not a realistic goal. Since the time President-elect Obama made a campaign pledge to double the NIH budget, the nation has gone into an economic downturn.   


But the recession is exactly why we must increase funding for the NIH. Incurable disease is a mountain of medical debt– which is currently crushing the economy.


As stated by the American Association of Retired Persons, the number one cause of bankruptcy is the inability to pay medical expenses.


Right now, America is spending $2 trillion on direct out-of-pocket medical payments—and at least another $2 trillion on indirect costs to the economy: like people unable to work: not only are we are denied their earnings, but also we must pay their bills. So that is at least $4 trillion the nation must come up with—and can the government afford that? Our entire federal income tax receipts are only about $1 trillion.  The only way to fix this endlessly increasing debt is cure research, and that means major funding for the NIH.


  • Mini-Funding Research Programs What if we had tiny little stem cell research funding programs in every state? Not big expensive plans, like California or New York, but little ones, small but mighty: a million bucks a year.   


Such programs would help fund the state’s newest scientists–and bring in matching grants from the Feds—new money for the states.  


Remember the law named after my son, the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act (RR)? Only $1.5 million a year, this California program often funds young scientists who cannot get funded by the feds because they are new—but if their experiment is successful with our little bit of money, they can go back to NIH and ask for serious funding, because now they have a track record.  That was how Dr. Hans Keirstead was funded for the embryonic stem cell therapies being considered for human trials right now. He started small with an RR grant, succeeded, and then used that success as proof that his idea was sound—and new money came to his work, and to California.


Similarly, mini-programs would bring in new money to their state.  Every year the RR Act attracts matching grants from the NIH and other sources, three or four times as much. So far, the Act has spent $12.5 million in California tax dollars—and  brought in more than $50 million in matching grants from out of state.


What kind of progress could we make if every state in the Union was working on regenerative research? If we had 50 new stem cell scientists in every state—that would be 2500 new stem cell researchers…


We need that army of new stem cell researchers, and we need it now, when at last we have the freedom to do the work that must be done.


As success builds, so will our new American industry. Remember when our country made transportation affordable for everyone?


We can do it again—but this time, it could be cures instead of cars.   


And as we work toward such positive goals, we diminish the chances of having an

 “anti-Thanksgiving” next year. 




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