Funding collaborations to find new therapies

Back in October the CIRM Governing Board heard from Victoria Jackson, who, in addition to being a powerful businesswoman in the cosmetics world, founded the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation to drive cures for the rare autoimmune disease NMO (neuromyolitis optica or Devic’s disease), which her daughter Ali developed as a teenager.

Videos of those NMO talks are available here. I highly recommend listening to Jackson speak. She’s smart, compassionate, and hysterical.

What was so inspiring about Jackson’s talk was her fearlessness in changing the status quo in disease research. Few scientists were studying NMO, and those that were weren’t talking to each other or to the scientists who worked on related topics. And when she pushed them to talk she was told that’s not how science happens. But when you are Victoria Jackson and you have both a checkbook and a daughter with a rare, incurable disease, it turns out you can make collaboration be how science happens. She now has 11 advisors who help guide funding to eight research sites and three clinical sites.

For me, Jackson’s talk really spoke to CIRM’s mission of accelerating research. We’re not in the business of throwing money at science and hoping one day cures might happen. People voted for Proposition 71 with the understanding that we’d we’d work tirelessly to make those cures happen. So, like the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation and a few other organizations, CIRM has been devising innovative funding strategies that will push scientists to work together and get to cures faster. It won’t be tomorrow, or even next year, but we’re pretty sure we’ll get there sooner than we would if we just let science take its course.

We recently put together a short video about the power of collaboration, drawing on Jackson’s experience.