Recently, Michael J. Fox and MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD, addressed the hardware engineers, software engineers, computational biologists, clinicians, clinical researchers and basic scientists who make up the team at Verily Life Sciences to officially inaugurate the new Verily Grand Rounds speaker series. In this frank and wide-ranging discussion, moderated by William Marks, MD, MS, Verily’s Head of Clinical Neurology, Michael touches on his personal philosophy of living with Parkinson’s and his pride in the Foundation’s accomplishments while Todd shares updates from the front lines of Parkinson’s drug development.
Michael on the Foundation’s approach to grantmaking: “I thought it was find scientists and fund them, but it’s bigger than that. It’s finding scientists and knowing what you want from them. I remember saying in early meetings, ‘You want to give this guy two million dollars and he’s not going to come tell us what he’s doing? I want to give him a report card.’ ”
Todd on how groups like Verily can be game-changers in Parkinson’s research: “We now are in a position where we have an ability to collect a vast amount of data from people with Parkinson’s at the extent never before. We have whole genome sequencing, we have brain imaging, we have proteomics, RNA sequencing, clinical data, all being collected over time. We … are using technology to track the course of day so it’s not just that half hour with a doctor to get the clinical sense. But then how are we going to utilize all of this information and data to make sense of the disease? We have the input happening. How do we now make that output, the analytics, and really the innovation on that information? I think the kind of personnel that are here feed into all those components that are critical to really take Parkinson’s from 1817 to 2017.”
Michael on his famous optimism: “I’m just a happy guy. I just look at life as endless opportunity. I wake up every day curious. I think that’s as important as anything, to wake up every day and say, ‘What is this day going to bring me? What is this day going to bring us? What are the possibilities in this day? What are outcomes I might see?’ I live with acceptance and not an expectation, but acceptance isn’t resignation. It’s just acknowledging the truth and being empowered by it.”