Message from the Director:

We, like you, are adjusting to life in self-imposed isolation so as not to be vectors for the distribution of COVID-19. The entire Lokey Stem Cell Building is on lockdown, with essential experiments only exempted by approval from the leadership. Social isolation is required in the building for those who must come in, and decontamination procedures have been established for the benches, equipment, etc, used by them. It is a tragedy that promising research that could lead to therapies for incurable diseases must take a back seat to an epidemic that should have been anticipated earlier and could have been largely averted with national planning. 

Old folks like me are to stay away from young folks who travel and socialize more readily. Isolation can be a boon—for example catching up with emails and long-delayed manuscripts from lab fellows. It also means time to read and think, and to remember that teamwork is great for getting things done, but true innovative ideas start with individuals—‘firsts’ in our language. Most funding and funding agencies put a premium on team science, and it makes me wonder if the policy makers who place their bets on teams actually ever made a discovery that opened a field.

If you follow our announcements you will know that several of our discoveries are now making their way through clinical trials, some with commercialization to fund those trials. This is what we all want, as no university or government agency is also the seller or distributor of diagnostics or therapeutics. But it worries me that the overall goals, knowledge and expertise of the system coming from the initial discovery, a system that allowed the discoverers to take it to early clinical trials, almost never rests in the larger pharma or biotechs that obtain the rights, and so these trials that haven’t yet crossed the line to approved therapies still have significant risk.

Irv Weissman

May, 2020