The Promise of Medical Breakthroughs is Now!

Our founder Jacqueline Brandwynne is super fired-up about a myriad of cutting-edge ideas and mind-expanding frontiers of change that she heard experts present on at the 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference, held recently in Los Angeles. In her June column, Jacqui tells you what to be on the lookout for, and how to hear all the original presenters for themselves ...


Biomedical Research


Recently, I had the privilege to attend the Milken Institute Global Conference, 2016. While I’ve been pretty downbeat about the state of the world and the dysfunction in Washington, what I learned from the broad range of experts was stunning and highly promising. These illuminating presentations opened my eyes and challenged my mind. The ideas I took in, the new knowledge I incorporated truly renewed my belief in humanity.

For starters, I would like to share with you the astonishing results of the biomedical research revolution which was amply discussed. Why can we be upbeat about the reality of making medical breakthroughs that will positively affect millions of people now and in the long term? 

What is Biomedical Research?

It is the broad area of science that looks for ways to prevent and treat diseases causing illness and death in people and animals. This basic field of research examines both life sciences and physical sciences.  Incorporating biotechnology techniques, researchers analyze biological processes and diseases with the goal of developing effective treatments and cures. This fundamental research is generally undertaken by universities or public institutions such as the NIH (National Institutes of Health), not private corporations. 

In 2003, such a major research effort resulted in the successful completion of the Human Genome Project, which has already fueled the discovery of more than l,800 disease genes.  At least 350 biotechnology-based products resulting from the Genome Project are in clinical trials today.

 Another current example with extraordinary potential is the “Brain Initiative” Research.  The aim of this initiative, explains Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, “is to develop, by 2020, tools and technologies that will enable researchers to explore how the brain’s roughly 85 billion neurons, each with about 1,000 connections, interact in real time, to produce an amazingly complex array of human thoughts and behaviors. In time, this understanding will open new avenues to treat, cure, and prevent Alzheimer’s disease, autism, schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse and many other brain disorders.”

A third major target to attack is one of the most feared diseases: cancer.  In January, the President announced the launch of a national cancer “moon shot”, a grand research initiative with the aim of catalyzing new ways of diagnosing, treating and curing all of the hundreds of types and subtypes of cancer. New scientific insights, technological innovations and the realization that cancer is a disease of the genome underlie this ambitious effort.  Realizing what mutations are present in a person’s tumor is often most critical.

 A further area of great promise is the ability to activate the immune system to assist in the eradication of cancer - which is already happening.

“The world has never witnessed a time of greater promise for making medical breakthroughs in these and many other areas” says the NHI’s Frances Collins. “Given a strong, stable trajectory of support for biomedical research, we can look forward to a bright horizon filled with countless opportunities for improving the health of humankind.”

You, too, can partake of this trove of knowledge about biotechnology-  and other cutting edge topics of our time - by accessing each and any Global Initiative Conference lecture through the Milken Institure website. The stunning observations and presentations, about thirteen for each of the four days of the conference, have been uploaded for you to share this gift of knowledge taking us to a promising future.


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