Stem Cell Person of the Year 2016: Patient Advocate Ted Harada

Stem cell ethics meeting

Ted, Me, and Judy

Patient advocate Ted Harada is the recipient of this year’s Stem Cell Person of the Year Award.

Congrats also to the runner-up, HD patient advocate Judy Roberson. The three of us together are pictured at left.

You can read about the 20 nominees here and see the vote results that picked the 10 finalists here.

Very sadly, as many of you know, Ted passed away just a few months ago from a brain tumor so I am giving him this award posthumously. Accepting the award on his behalf is his wife Michelle.  Ted and I shared a deep commitment to our families. You can see a picture of Ted, Michelle, and their kids below. What a great family!

You can see a video of Ted talking about Right To Try below.

Each year that I’ve done the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award, I’ve been faced with the wonderful, but difficult challenge of picking one winner out of a group of outstanding finalists and this year was no different.

With this award that includes a $2,000 prize, I’m looking for an outside-the-box risk taker who has made a positive impact in the world of stem cells. Ted fit the bill perfectly. Ted Harada Family

Ted was a clinical trial participant for a new stem cell therapy for ALS in a trial run by the biotech Neuralstem. As such, Ted put himself at risk (transplanted cells have risks, immunosuppression has risks, etc.). He did this for the benefit of the field and for other patients. However, Ted went well beyond that. He was also a tireless patient advocate and educator who inspired countless people.

Ted respected other’s opinions and was a true class act. For instance, although Ted and I didn’t see entirely eye-to-eye on some things like Right to Try, that wasn’t a wedge. He served as a bridge between different parts of the community. Here at UC Davis we run an annual symposium on stem cell ethics and one year Ted was an invited speaker. He made a big, positive impact at our meeting.

Overall, Ted left the world including the stem cell and regenerative medicine arena a far better place. You can read my tribute to Ted after his death here. I only wish I could have given him this award in person.

Tribute to Ted Harada, pioneering stem cell trial participant and ALS advocate

Ted Harada FamilyIt takes a great deal of courage to participate in a clinical trial, patients who make that choice are heroes in my book and one such hero with stem cells was Ted Harada who had ALS. Sadly, Ted passed away from a brain tumor called glioblastoma last month.

When enrolling in a trial, you just never know if it will be beneficial or even be safe, and this is especially true of early phase clinical trials. As a result, it takes guts to be a trial participant and Ted was happy to do so.

I had the honor of meeting and getting to know Ted over the past several years. We even brought Ted out to be a speaker at our annual stem cell ethics symposium here at UC Davis a couple of years back along with my friend and amazing HD advocate Judy Roberson (see pic below of us three).

I first got to know Ted because he was a clinical trial participant in a stem cell study for ALS run by the company Neuralstem. I interviewed him for my blog (two parts here and here) and met up with Ted at meetings.

Ted brought a fresh perspective on the tough question of how to find the sweet spot of regulatory oversight of investigational stem cell therapies. Ted and I didn’t entirely see eye-to-eye on that question, but disagreeing in a mutually respectful way is okay. There is a lot we can learn from each other.  Ted and I agreed on many things too including the importance of patients participating in the dialogue. He was a tireless advocate for ALS research.

Stem cell ethics meeting

Ted, Me, and Judy

I thought of Ted as a friend and I admired him greatly. He will be missed so much. His family meant the world to him. See a picture of Ted that sent me of him with his wonderful family above.

Ted approached all that life threw at him, whether it was ALS or a brain tumor, with a characteristic passion, sense of humor and classiness. I don’t recall anyone dealing with adversity as well as Ted did and I never heard him say anything like, “why me”. Instead there was always kindness and grace.

During his battle with the brain tumor this year, he gave frequent updates on various things he was going through and how he was doing and there was more often than not evidence of Ted’s faith and sometimes his great sense of humor in those updates.

My condolences go out to his family and many friends. We all miss you, Ted. Your extraordinary positive impact continues.

You can read Ted’s obituary and some moving tributes to him here.