January 23, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

Meeting with Rick Perry to build 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.


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