Meeting with Texas Governor Perry: building stem cell bridges

On Monday I had the privilege to participate in a very unique meeting down in San Diego, CA with Governor Rick Perry of Texas.

The focus was on the future of stem cell translational research and clinical application.

The small meeting was hosted by Jerry Henberger of the Parkinson’s Association of San Diego, at the Scripps Research Institute and the catalyst for the meeting was patient advocate Michael Thorsnes. Mike has described himself as a “recovering attorney” and he is also a great photographic artist. You can see his work here. Below to the right is a picture of Mike and the Governor at our meeting.

Rick PerryIn addition to Mike, Ron and I, the meeting included the Governor, Drs. Jeanne Loring and Melissa Houser of Scripps, patient advocate Corina Raducanu, San Diego businessman Cary Mack, Loring Lab postdoc Andres Bratt-Leal, Ron Hendrix, Director of the Parkinson’s Association, and Stacey Rosenberg of Scripps.

The goal of the meeting was to address the question “Where do we go from here?”

How do we advance stem cell research to help patients?

Unlike what happens too often in the stem cell arena where people (admittedly including myself at times) focus on their differences, at this meeting the Gestalt was unifying to a common goal to advance safe and effective stem cell research.

In my opinion right now the stem cell universe is too insular and we urgently need to build bridges between a number of different parties.

  • Between different scientists and institutions.
  • Between different states.
  • Between people from different walks of life such as patient advocates and scientists as well as political leaders and scientists.

There is a power in bringing together people literally in one room and at one table together who have different perspectives, yet share a common goal of making a difference for good. You could feel that at our meeting.

As I met with the Governor I was impressed by a number of things about him including his ability to not only zero in on the core of issues and articulate a focus, but also to listen to those around him.

Really listen.

Paul Knoepfler

I’m not saying that Governor Perry and I agree on everything. Heck, I probably don’t agree with anybody on the planet about everything and that’s an unrealistic expectation. He’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat. I’m in favor of ES cell research and he’s publicly opposed it. However, there is a lot of important common ground between the Governor and I.

For example, one area of shared interest is using stem cells to help people. In addition, we are both big fans of adult stem cells and iPS cells.

He clearly has a very deep love of Texas, which I found admirable. He also is fascinated by stem cell research and how it can advance medicine. I believe that Texas has a huge amount to contribute to the future of the stem cell field. I see Governor Perry as passionate about making that a reality.

Governor Perry

During the meeting we identified a number of challenges including the goals of advancing safe and effective stem cell therapies in an expeditious manner. We also found common ground in the notion that by working together we can achieve more than we could separately.

I believe this meeting to be just the beginning of a longer-term team, multi-state effort led by California and Texas, which both possess unique resources to transform medicine through stem cells.

I’ve said many times to people that it is easy to preach to the choir, but harder to reach out and talk with those who have a different perspective. This meeting exemplified the good things that can happen when we start building bridges between a diversity of people.

Pictures courtesy of Michael Thorsnes and Corina Raducanu.


22 Comments


  1. Try not to be too shocked and awed when he uses anything and everything he learned against you personally and stem cell research in general. He’s a Texas politician who aspires to national/international power, and he’s a solidly right-wing GOPher extremist, beholden to the arrogance faction of the 1%. Perry’s personal understandings and opinions mean nothing to him in his quest for more power.


  2. Texas State Health Services Council votes today on new rules pertaining to Autologous Adult Stem Cell Banks, let’s hope they get it right and don’t restrict science in any way. The current language should be broadened. Overall Texas will become the next Mecca for research and I hope treatment in this area.
    Paul are you ready to move the lab yet? We even allow democrats to live here now! As long as you root for the cowboys!


  3. Everyone should be reminded that Governor Perry is also part of a more important 1%, that being someone actually treated with stem cells. That Proud Texan walks the walk.


    • Agreed. It’s one thing to talk about how great stem cells are, but quite another to get a treatment oneself. Gutsy.
      However, what I’m more concerned with is making sure the general public do not rush out and get treatments that are not fully vetted.


  4. Hey there Dallas Stem Cell Junkie… Keep your hands off Paul. He is my recruit. See you in October PK, you will share the podium with some of our finest Texan Researchers. Announcement coming soon…cannot give any more details until month end.


  5. Keri-
    I think your great, and I hear great things about you and Dr. Willerson! Even though I’m under an obvious sydonym our paths have crossed!

    Paul is a hot commodity. So let’s see what the market will bare for him.
    I think the use of a villa in France once a year and a state of the art lab is in order. Plus a commission for all grants would be a good start.
    How’s that sound PK?


  6. Siri is such an idiot! Doesn’t she know the difference between your and you’re?
    Sorry Mrs. Wendell my 3rd grade English teech!


  7. Thanks guys…now I am blushing. Dr. Willerson is a gift to this field. No doubt about it. We are ALL very fortunate to have him in our home court and pushing stem cell science in the right direction for the right reasons.

    Dallas Stem Cell Junkie.. I am pretty sure that I have your true identity pegged and would love to hear more about that villa when I see you next.

    Regarding Texas becoming the next Mecca. I thought we had this one already bagged? Thanks for the blog post inspiration 🙂

    http://www.stemcellcite.com/archives/2650


  8. Hmmm
    I’m flattered that my identity is so important.
    Paul from what I hear, St. Tropez is a very interesting place but surely not a place for telomeres, an expansion discussions.
    But we were talking about Texas and our wonderful forward thinking Governor And making Dallas the new stem cell research and treatment center.


  9. Joyoyrobgirl7,
    Is this a scoop or conjecture?
    Paul are you weighing in on this information or is your silence an affirmation?

    Seems you should explore the opportunities b4 you jump. April 13 in Texas caused a real vaccum which is beginning to fill in with some smart people. It’s all starting to coalesce!

    Patience!


  10. 4-13, a Friday if you can believe it, Texas Medical Board approves an expanded ruling on stem cell treatment under an IRB

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