Friday, 24 May 2019

MIT Technology Review/Antonio Regalado: Gene therapy may have its first blockbuster

MIT Technology  Review
Biotechnology / Genetic Engineering
Gene therapy may have its first blockbuster
Novartis awaits approval to sell Zolgensma to treat spinal muscular atrophy.
by Antonio Regalado
May 23, 2019
An image of a building with a Novartis logo

A newborn. A fatal diagnosis. And soon, a one-time gene replacement cure in the first weeks of life.

The cost? You don’t want to know.

Gene therapy is about to achieve a milestone. As soon as tomorrow, drug giant Novartis expects to win approval to launch what it says will be the first “blockbuster” gene-replacement treatment. A blockbuster is any drug with more than $1 billion in sales each year.

The treatment, called Zolgensma, is able to save infants born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1, a degenerative disease that usually kills within two years. But its expected cost is shocking, too: between $1.5 and $2 million, which would make it the most expensive one-time medicine ever sold.

Novartis will announce the price as soon as it gets final approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, something the company expects to occur this week.

Gene therapy uses viruses to insert healthy genes into patients’ cells, but the growing success of the concept may bring a reckoning for US health care.

The FDA predicts that by 2025 between 10 and 20 gene or cell treatments will reach the market each year, potentially roiling the US insurance market if costly treatments for hemophilia and muscular dystrophy win approval.

“The issue with many of these drugs is that they are expensive but also life-changing for those who need them,” says Michael Sherman, chief medical officer of the insurer Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, who has been negotiating with Novartis. “For this and other gene therapies coming down the pike, it’s not about saying no, but how do you say yes without bankrupting the system?”

Executives with Novartis say their SMA drug launch will include programs to help insurers pay, including a prototype “pay-as-you-go” plan as well as offers to reimburse a fraction of the drug’s price if patients die or end up on a ventilator.

“We’d like to pay over time,” says Sherman, “and to stop paying if it stops working. At these ever-increasing prices, I think it’s fair to ask.”

Sherman says such novel payment concepts can’t be fully implemented until insurers agree to take on patients’ outstanding bills when they switch plans. Also, a rule guaranteeing state Medicaid agencies the “best price” for all drugs means Novartis can’t offer a full money-back guarantee.

The treatment was created by a team in Ohio, where scientists and clinicians at Nationwide Children’s Hospital tested it on children with spectacular results. The kids were injected with trillions of viruses carrying a correct copy of a gene called SMN1, which they have in a mutated form that causes loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord.

The Nationwide researcher who perfected the idea, Brian Kaspar, formed a startup called AveXis, which Novartis acquired for $8.7 billion last year. Another researcher, Arthur Burghes of Ohio State University, also played a critical role by developing a mouse with SMA, and physician Jerry Mendell led the first human studies.

Since only about 400 kids a year in the US are born with SMA the acquisition price guaranteed a sky-high price for the drug. “They can do the math,” says Sherman.

Zolgensma, when it gets the expected green light, will become the sixth gene therapy approved in the US or Europe. But some of these have struggled to reach patients. One, Glybera, was pulled from the market after being purchased only once. Another, Strimvelis, which treats immune deficiency, has been used by fewer than a dozen paying customers, in part because it involves a bone marrow transplant. A third, Luxturna, addresses an eye disease that affects very few people.

In contrast, Novartis says, the SMA treatment is already in high demand. So far, 150 patients have received the gene therapy in clinical trials or through special access programs, says David Lennon, president of AveXis. In some cases, the treatment is being given to children at six weeks of age, highlighting how soon after birth a child’s genes can be fixed.

States including Minnesota and Pennsylvania recently added SMA to a panel of diseases kids are checked for in maternity wards. As other states follow suit, that is likely to add a steady number of new candidates for the drug.

The forthcoming approval of the gene replacement comes only three years after a different breakthrough, using a type of genetic drug called antisense, led to the first highly effective treatment for SMA. That drug, Spinraza, is sold by Biogen and costs $375,000 a year, but it must be taken continuously, year after year, with rapidly mounting costs.

The two competing treatments are now expected to duel in the market. But insurers expect that the one-time gene fix could cost less in the long run for eligible patients, despite the initial price tag. “My expectation is that health plans will not cover Spinraza for that group going forward,” says Sherman.

Parents’ hopes and insurers’ calculations all depend on the assumption that the gene-replacement fix will be lasting. So far, it is: some kids who were treated are now five years old and doing well. “We think that is a good proxy for something not coming back,” says Lennon. But there’s no proof the treatment won’t wear off, or have to be readministered later.

It’s also unknown if the gene therapy will ever reach poor countries whose medical systems aren’t able to care for children with SMA and who couldn’t afford it. Lennon says Novartis has no specific plans to sell the treatment in the poorest parts of the world.

Antonio RegaladoI am the senior editor for biomedicine for MIT Technology Review. I look for stories about how technology is changing medicine and biomedical research. Before joining MIT Technology Review in July 2011, I lived in São Paulo, Brazil, where I wrote about science, technology, and politics in Latin America for Science and other publications. From 2000 to 2009, I was the science reporter at the Wall Street Journal and later a foreign correspondent.

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The Conversation/Adam Day : Realism should guide the next generation of UN peacekeeping

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Realism should guide the next generation of UN peacekeeping
May 23, 2019 4.43pm SAST

    Adam Day

    Head of Programmes, United Nations University

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Adam Day is the Head of Programmes at the Centre for Policy Research at United Nations University.

The Conversation is funded by the National Research Foundation, eight universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa. It is hosted by the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Western Cape, the African Population and Health Research Centre and the Nigerian Academy of Science. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner. more
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UN peacekeepers from South Africa in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012. EPA/Dai Kurokawa


Since the first United Nations peacekeeping operation was deployed to oversee a ceasefire in the Arab-Israeli war seven decades ago, more than 70 peacekeeping operations have been established. Fourteen remain deployed to this day. Of these, the so-called “big five” missions – in Mali, Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Darfur and South Sudan – represent some of the greatest challenges ever encountered by peacekeeping.

None of these settings is likely to result in sustainable peace any time soon.

The number of armed groups operating in the eastern part of the DRC is higher than ever – even after more than 20 years of peacekeeping. South Sudan is clinging to an extremely fragile peace process after civil war broke out in 2013, with hundreds of thousands of civilians still displaced.

Spreading violence in Mali has strained the capacities of international forces and shown the limitations of the existing peace process. Last year saw a continued spread of violence in the Central African Republic. This underscored the limited capacity of the central state to control its territory. And in Darfur, the peacekeeping operation is beginning to wind down with more than two million people still displaced and an incomplete peace process.

The inability of the UN to solve these kinds of intractable conflicts has led some to argue for dramatic cuts to peacekeeping. Others have suggested that peacekeeping is in crisis, or has failed.

With peacekeeping under pressure, it is more useful to recalibrate expectations, learn from what has worked over the past seven decades, and refocus the UN on the more limited – but achievable – tasks that peacekeeping can deliver.
High expectations

The 1990s and early 2000s were a period of extremes for UN peacekeeping.

On the one hand, the UN saw some of its most heart-wrenching catastrophes: Rwanda, Srebrenica and Somalia loom large on the list of UN failings.

But there were also important successes. UN operations successfully completed their mandates in Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Tajikistan. None has relapsed into conflict. And in Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Timor-Leste, Liberia and Kosovo, UN peacekeeping has been seen as a crucial part of the transitions from war to relative peace.

While each of these conflicts is different, it is important to notice similarities.

Firstly, most of the UN’s success stories have taken place in smaller countries where the conflict did not spread over a large geographic area. Secondly, in most settings the political leadership of the host country was generally willing to work with UN peacekeeping and allow it to play a supporting role in national processes like elections and security sector reform. Often regional and international actors stepped in constructively.

These conditions helped peace agreements to hold, while key bilateral actors saw meaningful partners in the leadership of the country, over time contributing to progress towards post-conflict reconstruction.

These relative successes contributed to an optimism that the UN could engage more ambitiously in “multidimensional peacekeeping”. Rather than merely supervise agreements, peacekeeping over the past 20 years has been expected to help address root causes of conflict, build state institutions, and actively protect civilians caught up in large-scale violence.

With increasingly ambitious mandates and a willingness to send peacekeepers into situations of active conflict, the Security Council has pushed peacekeeping to take on larger, more complex conflicts, often without a clear path towards peace.

But the Security Council has been proven wrong. UN peacekeeping will not solve conflicts like Darfur or the DRC. In fact, it is probably unrealistic to expect peacekeeping to deliver peace in any of the “big five” settings today.
An insurmountable task

Countries like Mali, DRC and South Sudan present a near-impossible terrain for peacekeeping. The massive scale – the DRC, for example, is double the size of France and Germany combined – poor access, and limited state capacity means the UN is only able to reach a tiny fraction of the population.

Today’s conflicts are also inherently more difficult to solve. A number of factors have contributed to this over the past 15 years. These include:

    the growth of intra-state wars. The past 15 years has witnessed a near tripling of internal conflicts, with a sixfold increase in battle-related deaths;

    a proliferation of non-state actors. A rapid growth of these, including violent extremist groups in places like Mali, has dramatically increased the risks to civilians, challenged state security authorities, and complicated efforts to deliver implementable peace agreements; and

    transnational crime. The ability of these criminal networks to foment and sustain conflicts has made today’s civil wars harder to end.

Crucially, today’s peacekeeping settings also present far more difficult governments than before. In Darfur, the regime in Khartoum was reluctant to allow any UN deployment at all, and consistently blocked the mission’s work on the ground. In DRC and South Sudan, state forces have often proven the greatest threat to civilians, causing more deaths than any single armed group. In Mali and Central African Republic, weak or non-existent state capacity across much of the territory means that rebel groups are often able to operate with impunity.

Taken together, these trends make today’s conflicts more dangerous, more likely to spread over large geographic areas, and more difficult to constrain with traditional tools of statecraft and diplomacy.
A new realism for peacekeeping

UN peacekeeping is far from perfect, and much can be done to improve the performance of missions on the ground. But we also can’t expect peacekeeping alone to solve the kinds of intractable conflicts that have arisen today, at least not with the mandates, resources, and time frames usually proposed by the Security Council.

It is unrealistic to suggest that a UN peacekeeping operation will deliver on its state-building mandate in countries like the Central African Republic anytime soon. And, as scholars have suggested, changes in these kinds of settings happens in fits and starts, with relapses, failings, and setbacks. There is no straight line from conflict to peace.

The UN, at best, may play a small role in facilitating national-level changes. But it can make a difference. Recent studies have shown UN peacekeeping can help reduce overall conflict rates, protect hundreds of thousands of civilians from slaughter, warn the world of impending violence, and even gradually tip the scales in favour of peace. While not the kind of national transformation envisioned in some of today’s peacekeeping mandates, these studies show the tangible impact the UN can have on people’s lives.

On the anniversary of UN peacekeeping, these accomplishments are worth celebrating (and indeed worth tracking more systematically). A new realism would build on these successes and recognise that UN peacekeeping can and does deliver well beyond the tasks of ceasefire monitoring 70 years ago, even if it is unlikely to resolve today’s most intractable conflicts.

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The Barents Observer/Thomas Nilsen: Russia warns it will take measures in response to new near-border spy radar in Arctic Norway

The Barents Observer  

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Vardø is located on an island on Norway's Barents Sea coast, in short distance from the base of Russia's fleet of ballistic missile submarines. Photo: Thomas Nilsen
Russia warns it will take measures in response to new near-border spy radar in Arctic Norway
In her weekly briefing for the press, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday came with a direct warning to Norway.
Thomas Nilsen
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May 23, 2019

“It seems obvious to me that military preparations near Russian or any other borders cannot be ignored by our or other countries,” Zakharova said when asked about the new Globus radar currently being installed in Vardø.

“We presume that we will take repose measures to ensure our own security,” she said. A transcript of the press briefing is published on the portal of the Foreign Ministry.

Vardø is a small fishing village on a little island on Norway’s coast to the Barents Sea. The huge military radar facility forms the skyline. In clear weather, if you look east across the water, you can see the shoreline of Russia’s Fishermen Peninsula, a northern appendix of the Kola Peninsula.  

Officially, the intelligence service operating the facility has never said the word “Russia” when explaining what the radars in Vardø are looking for.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry, though, has a clear view on the purpose of the radar.

“The station is located just 50 km from the border with Russia, served by Norwegian military intelligence. It’s no secret that the information it receives is transmitted to the United States,” Maria Zakharova said.

She continued: “…there is every reason to believe that the radar will monitor precisely the territory of the Russian Federation and will become part of the US missile defense system.”

The Norwegian Intelligence Service writes in a public statement about the new radar: “The GLOBUS system ensures continued access to important and relevant information of national importance.”

Moscow fears the radars could be used to track intercontinental ballistic missiles and monitor activities of the Northern Fleet.

Russia’s ballistic missile submarines in the north are all based at Gadzhiyevo which is just 150 kilometers east of the radar system in Vardø.

The Globus radar is highly visible above Vardø harbor. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Zakharova warned about the radar’s negative influence on the stability in the north.

“It is obvious that the deployment of the American radar in the area is not a purely Norwegian issue. It concerns the general context of maintaining stability and predictability in the north,” she said and pointed to recent U.S. statements about security treats in the Arctic.

At the Arctic Council Ministerial in Rovaniemi in early May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tongue-lashed Russia for reopening military bases in the Arctic.

Maria Zakharova is infamous for undiplomatic statements, but no doubt also Russia’s military establishment is deeply dissatisfied with the Globus radar system in Vardø.

In February last year, a large group of Russian fighter jets made a mock attack on Vardø, as previously reported by the Barents Observer.

Map-illustration: Norwegian Intelligence Service

The 11 Sukhoi-24 (NATO name Fencer) supersonic attack aircraft took off from Monchegorsk air base on the Kola Peninsula flying out in the Barents Sea before taking a 180-degree turn into an attack formation towards Vardø.

A similar Russian mock attack on Vardø happened in March 2017. There has also been several incidents with Russian military disturbances of GPS navigation signals in Norway’s border areas to the Kola Peninsula over the last two years.
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Newspaper solution: Ramsalt Media Most Promising Funding Opportunities for Changing the Lives of Poor and Marginalized Children

Most Promising Funding Opportunities for Changing the Lives of Poor and Marginalized Children

A collection of the most promising funding opportunities for NGOs working for improving the lives of the Poor and the Marginalized...[Continue Reading]

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CoinCola - Person-to-Person (P2P) Bitcoin platform now in Nigeria

Though based in Hong Kong, Coincola aims to provide trustworthy trading and exchange services to all its users all around the world with Africa being a key place of interest

LAGOS, Nigeria, May 23, 2019/ -- Blockchain Technology is rapidly growing in different continents and many more people beginning to see the importance and relevance of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in their different fields of life. Nations and companies are gradually adopting cryptocurrency in exchange for goods and services instead of fiat. However, the African continent seems to be lagging behind in the adoption of this upcoming technology resulting from the lack of political will to accept the risk of innovation (in Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency). This can further be perceived in the reluctance to adopt the use of cryptocurrency in day-to-day transactions.

About Coincola going into Africa

Though based in Hong Kong, Coincola aims to provide trustworthy trading and exchange services to all its users all around the world with Africa being a key place of interest. Coincola believes that Blockchain technology will be essential to providing secure banking and payment services in the future and also that cryptocurrency will greatly improve the convenience of daily transactions and help to create a world that is financially borderless. Hence, our mission is to “connect everyone to this new digital asset economy.

Features on CoinCola

Coincola is an OTC cryptocurrency marketplace and exchange designed to offer the best cryptocurrency trading experience for users and also offer fast and secure trading services at competitive fees and exchange rates.

In the OTC Marketplace, the trading platform allows people around the world to use their local FIAT currency to buy and sell Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Dash (DASH) ,Tether (USDT) and Ripple (XRP). This is done on a person-to-person (P2P) basis. Users can post adverts for free and are only charged a trading fee of 0.7% of the traded amount once the transaction has been completed.

In the exchange market, CoinCola offers Bitcoin (BTC) and Tether (USDT) as base currencies and supports crypto-to-crypto trading pairs with Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Litecoin (LTC).  A trading fee of 0.2% is charged for an exchanged amount. However, there is a fixed withdrawal fee.

The new feature which allows users to trade bitcoin with gift card was added recently to fulfill a highly desired request by African users. Users can now buy bitcoin in Nigeria (, Guana and everywhere else in Africa. They can buy bitcoin with gift cards (, whether it is iTunes gift cards (, Amazon gift cards (, Google gift cards (, Steam gift cards and more.

At Coincola, security is of utmost priority hence there are multiple layers of security including bank-level encryption, cold storage and SSL, ensuring that customers can trade with 100% confidence.

CoinCola provides an intuitive and easy verification process by building trust and transparency in the Blockchain ecosystem and ensuring compliance using KYC/AML regulations.

A mobile app is available to enable users to transact and trade comfortably while on the move.

Why use CoinCola instead of Paxful?

Compared to Paxful trading fee which is 5% for every traded amount, CoinCola charges a fee of 0.7%, now, a lot is saved. Trading of your cryptocurrencies can be done via our mobile app or web version however Paxful only has its web version.

CoinCola supports BTC, ETH, LTC, BCH, XRP, USDT, and Dash but Paxful supports only BTC.

Security and users' satisfaction are our priorities, therefore CoinCola provides a 24/7 full support and inquiry on their platform as well as on their Telegram channel.


We are going into an era where fiat will be one of the least currencies used. Blockchain technology and Cryptocurrency is gradually sipping into different sectors. At CoinCola, our customers are valuable to us, so whether you’re a knowledgeable cryptocurrency investor or a newbie, our platform makes crypto exchange very for you with few clicks and a dedicated support team to guide you whenever you need any form of assistance.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of CoinCola.

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SDG Knowledge Hub/Oli Brown: Stopping the Great Splintering: A 5-Step Plan to Revive Multilateralism

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Oli Brown
Associate Fellow with the Energy, Environment and Resources Department of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs)
23 May 2019
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Stopping the Great Splintering: A 5-Step Plan to Revive Multilateralism
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A new publication on SDGs and foreign policy, prepared by researchers at the German thinktank adelphi, highlights a phenomenon I call this the ‘Great Splintering’ – the fracturing of political will for collective action on the global stage.

This article outlines five steps we could take to revive multilateralism.

I miss 2015. It was a landmark year. In the space of 12 short months governments signed a slew of groundbreaking agreements: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

At the time, many of us interpreted these agreements as milestones towards an inevitable outcome: a community of nations that finally would be able to tackle some of the world’s most intractable problems.

How wrong we were. Since 2015, people around the world have voted for populist leaders, nativist platforms or decisions that explicitly renounce a collective approach to common challenges: the UK’s choice to leave the EU (“Brexit”), Trump’s election as President of the US, and the elections of Duterte in the Philippines, Salvini in Italy, and Bolsonaro in Brazil. Far-right populist parties are now in power, or sharing power, in seven EU nations.

A defining characteristic of populist politics, on both the right and the left, is the depiction of multilateralism as driven by global elites at the expense of the “common man.” Countries under the influence of populist messages are retreating from the global stage and defining their politics in terms of opposition to foreigners and a distrust of multilateral organizations – the UN, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the EU in particular.

Countries have pulled out of critical accords like the Paris Agreement and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Jair Bolsonaro threatened to withdraw Brazil from the UN. Donald Trump is openly hostile to the Organization. For example, in May 2019 –to the delight of the US National Rifle Association – Trump announced his intention to withdraw the US from the UN’s 2013 arms control treaty that aims to stem the illegal trade in conventional weapons.

A new publication on SDGs and foreign policy, prepared by researchers at the German thinktank adelphi, highlights the phenomenon described above. I call this the ‘Great Splintering’ – the fracturing of political will for collective action on the global stage. The fragile ties binding countries together are fraying, with serious impacts: divisive politics, trade wars, disintegrating anti-proliferation treaties, an explosion of hate speech, conflict and division. While the dissolution of the EU or the UN may be unlikely, these trends risk undermining those institutions to the extent that they become ineffective and irrelevant.

Meanwhile, the world’s most pressing cross-border challenges – international terrorism, climate change, species loss, financial contagion, pandemics, growing inequality – have not gone away. Indeed, most are getting worse. Many of the SDGs are off-track, and we risk losing momentum on the implementation of what is perhaps our most important blueprint for a better world.

Is this a passing phase, or an enduring pivot in world politics? Is a new iron curtain falling between us? Is there anything we can do to revive multilateralism?

Here are five steps we could take.

Step 1: Admit You Have a Problem

As any alcoholic knows, the first step to recovery is acknowledging a problem. Those who believe in the ideals of multilateralism assume that the value of working together to tackle common problems is self-evident. This is reinforced as we often work, travel and talk among small circles of the “converted.”

But it’s not so clear to everyone else. Take for example, the fact that in many countries being labelled a “globalist” has—amazingly—become an insult. Many of us live this fiction that the arc of history bends inevitably towards greater cooperation across borders. But the direction of this arc is not automatic, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Step 2: Meet People Where They Are

People working in multilateral organisations tend to respond to criticism of multilateralism by retreating to defensive speaking points about accepted mandates, institutional history and abstract achievements (reports published, conferences hosted, etc.).

This is the wrong strategy. We need to meet people where they are: people experience global challenges locally, even if the only effective response to many of those challenges is collective action on the part of many countries. We need to move beyond preaching to the converted and understand how we can better frame multilateral action in a way that makes sense to people’s real-life experiences.

Step 3: Rebuild Trust in Multilateral Institutions

Part of the necessary reframing is dealing with real problems in the multilateral system, which is suffering from a deficit of popular trust – some of it deserved, much of it not. Reform of these global organizations should be a matter of priority. It is more important than ever that they be more inclusive and totally transparent, reduce bureaucratic friction, and walk their own talk. Foreign policy professionals, as the recent publication from the German thinktank adelphi points out, can and should play a critical role in ensuring that happens.

Step 4: Focus on Results

Multilateralism is based on the idea that common problems are best solved by collective action that generates benefits for every country. The multilateral system needs to find concrete, communicable ways to demonstrate that this is true: that global action delivers meaningful change for people around the world, and thus directly serves the interests of individual nations. This means fewer self-important conferences and more on-the-ground projects. It means fewer “generals” and more “foot soldiers.” It requires a relentless focus on results that change people’s lives.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

The current multilateral system was built from the ashes of two World Wars with a combined death toll of more than a 100 million people. This searing experience led people to create an entirely new architecture for cooperation to ensure that such devastation was never again unleashed on the world. That architecture is in graver danger than many of us realize.

The fabric of international cooperation, painstakingly woven over the past 70 years, is beginning to unravel. In 1918 and again in 1945, war-traumatized countries said, “Never again.” It is incumbent on all of us to redouble our efforts to ensure that dialogue trumps division, and that cooperation beats conflict.

The author of this guest article, Oli Brown, is an Associate Fellow with the Energy, Environment and Resources Department of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs). His blog and other writing can be found here:

Oli Brown and Stella Schaller of adelphi contributed an essay to the publication titled, ‘Driving Transformative Change: Foreign Affairs and the 2030 Agenda,’ which was launched on 30 April 2019. The study was written by adelphi in cooperation with partner institutions including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Center on International Cooperation (CIC) at New York University, Chatham House, TMG Think Tank for Sustainability, and CDP Worldwide. It was supported by a grant from the German Federal Foreign Office.
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Brett J. Fox: What Are The Two Killer Fundraising Mistakes You Have To Avoid?

Brett J. Fox
What Are The Two Killer Fundraising Mistakes You Have To Avoid?
By Brett Fox | May 22, 2019

I've worked with a lot of startup CEO's, and I see the same two killer fundraising mistakes made over and over again. One of them will kill you before you get started, and the mistake will kill you when you're raising money.

What are these killer mistakes, and, more importantly, how can you avoid them? I'll explain what you can do in this short video.

Do You Want To Grow Your Business?  Maybe I Can Help.  Click Here.
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The Washington Post/Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey: ‘He always brings them up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm

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‘He always brings them up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm
By Nick Miroff and
Josh Dawsey
May 23 at 7:06 PM

Fisher Industries trucks prepare land on private property in New Mexico, near El Paso, on Wednesday, feet from the grounds of the Casa de Adobe Museum, where International Boundary Marker No. 1 sits in the foreground. (Jordyn Rozensky and Justin Hamel/For The Washington Post)

President Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to three administration officials.

In phone calls, White House meetings and conversations aboard Air Force One during the past several months, Trump has aggressively pushed Dickinson, N.D.-based Fisher Industries to Department of Homeland Security leaders and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials.

Semonite was summoned to the White House again Thursday, after the president’s aides told Pentagon officials — including Gen. Mark Milley, the commander of the U.S. Army — that the president wanted to discuss the border barrier. According to an administration official with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting, Trump immediately brought up Fisher, a company that sued the U.S. government last month after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars.

Trump has latched on to the company’s public claims that a new weathered steel design and innovative construction method would vastly speed up the project — and deliver it at far less cost to taxpayers. White House officials said Trump wants to go with the best and most cost-effective option to build the wall quickly.

“The President is one of the country’s most successful builders and knows better than anyone how to negotiate the best deals,” said Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary. “He wants to make sure we get the job done under budget and ahead of schedule.”

Fisher’s CEO, Tommy Fisher, has gone on conservative television and radio, claiming that his company could build more than 200 miles of barrier in less than a year. And he has courted Washington directly, meeting in congressional offices and inviting officials to the southwest desert to see barrier prototypes.

Even as Trump pushes for his firm, Fisher already has started building a section of fencing in Sunland Park, N.M. We Build the Wall, a nonprofit organization that includes prominent conservatives who support the president — its associates and advisory board include former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon, Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince, ex-congressman Tom Tancredo and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — has guided an effort to build portions of the border barrier on private land with private funds.

The first section is expected to be unveiled soon. Fisher-branded equipment and workers were visible this week preparing the site outside El Paso, within feet of the International Boundary Monument No. 1, placed in 1855 at the beginning of the effort to delineate the Mexico border. The stretch is the only area in the region without a barrier, in part because it crosses rugged terrain.

Scott Sleight, an attorney for Fisher, said in a statement Thursday that Fisher Industries is committed to working with the federal government to secure the border and has developed a patent-pending installation system that allows the company to build fencing “faster than any contractor using common construction methods.”

“Fisher has invited officials of many agencies and members of Congress to demonstrate what we believe are vastly superior construction methods and capabilities,” Sleight said. “Consistent with the goals President Trump has also outlined, Fisher’s goal is to, as expeditiously as possible, provide the best quality border protection at the best price for the American people at our Nation’s border.”

Fisher Industries works on the grounds of American Eagle Brick Company, along the U.S.-Mexico border adjacent to El Paso (Jordyn Rozensky and Justin Hamel/For The Washington Post)

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, has joined in the campaign for Fisher, along with Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), an ardent promoter of the company and the recipient of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Fisher and his family members, according to campaign finance records. Cramer, in an interview Thursday, said the Trump administration has shown a great deal of interest in his constituent’s company.

“He always brings them up,” Cramer said, noting that he spoke with Trump about Fisher twice — once in February, and again on Thursday. Each time, Trump said he wanted Fisher to build some of the barrier, Cramer said.

Cramer said Trump likes Fisher because he had seen him on television advocating for his version of the barrier: “He’s been very aggressive on TV,” Cramer said, of the CEO.

“You know who else watches Fox News?” Cramer said.

Trump’s repeated attempts to influence the Army Corps’s contracting decisions show the degree to which the president is willing to insert himself into what is normally a staid legal and regulatory process designed to protect the U.S. government from accusations of favoritism. It also shows how a private company can appeal to the president using well-placed publicity and personal connections to his allies — and the president’s willingness to dive into the minutiae of specific projects.

But Trump’s personal intervention risks the perception of improper influence on decades-old procurement rules that require government agencies to seek competitive bids, free of political interference.

A senior White House official explained Trump’s advocacy for Fisher by saying the president was told the company was cheaper than others and could build the wall faster. The official said that Trump would prefer another company if he learned they could do the work cheaper and faster than Fisher has promised.

The official said Trump had not told Semonite he must award the contract to the company but had repeatedly brought up Fisher as an option because he sees the process as too expensive and too slow. Trump wants to see hundreds of miles of border barrier completed within the next two years.

Trump has taken an intense interest in the border barrier project, expressing frustration with the pace of progress on a structure he views as key to his reelection campaign. Several administration officials have said the president requires frequent briefings from his staff, and has given specific but shifting instructions to Semonite and DHS leaders on his preferred tastes and design specifications.

Most recently, the president has insisted the structure be painted black and topped with pointed spikes, while grumbling to aides that Army Corps contracting process is holding back his ambitions. At the White House meeting Thursday, he said he doesn’t like the current design for the wall’s gates, suggesting that instead of the hydraulic sliding gate design, the Army Corps should consider an alternative, according to an administration official: “Why not French doors?” the president asked.

Trump also dismissed concerns about cost increases and maintenance needs associated with applying paint to the structure, insisting the barrier should be black, the administration official said. He also wants the flat steel panels removed from the upper part of the fence, which he considers unsightly, preferring sharpened tips at the end of the steel bollards.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.

The Army Corps, with a reputation for rectitude, discipline and impartiality, is the designated contracting authority for the border barrier project, developing specifications, awarding contracts and ensuring legal and regulatory compliance.
Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers and the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. (Monica King/U.S. Army Photo)

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers goes to great lengths to ensure the integrity of our contracting process,” said Raini W. Brunson, a spokesperson for the Army Corps, who referred questions about Trump’s conversations with Semonite to the White House.

The president ordered the reassignment of defense funds to the barrier project after Democrats denied his request for $5 billion. Instead, the agreement to end the government shutdown included $1.4 billion for the barrier. Since then, with Trump promising to build 400 miles of fencing by next year, the Pentagon has pledged to provide at least $2.5 billion more.

Fisher was one of the six companies that built border wall prototypes outside San Diego in 2017, but the company’s concrete design did not afford the see-through visibility that Homeland Security officials wanted. While many of the companies declined to discuss their prototypes with reporters, Tommy Fisher was an eager booster for his plan, criticizing the steel bollard design and professing that a more expensive concrete version would be better.

When Fisher began promoting a steel version of the barrier that he said could be installed faster and cheaper, the Army Corps said the design did not meet their requirements and lacked regulatory approvals.

“The system he is proposing does not meet the operational requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” an official said. DHS officials also told the Army Corps in March that Fisher’s work on a barrier project in San Diego came in late and over budget.

Fisher has alleged improprieties with the border wall procurement process and sued the government on April 25.

Tommy Fisher has made repeat appearances in conservative media including Fox News, touting his plan and denouncing “bureaucracy” for holding back construction progress. His pitch has become something of a conservative cause celebre, and in April Fisher hosted a demonstration of his construction techniques in Arizona with a groups of lawmakers including Cramer, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla.), and Kobach, the immigration hard-liner who the president had been considering as a possible DHS secretary.

President Trump steps off Air Force One with then-Senate candidate Kevin Cramer, center, and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) for a campaign rally in June 2018, in Fargo, N.D. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Fisher this week told radio listeners in North Dakota that he was using private donations to build a section of border wall to show off his superior construction methods, which involve using heavy equipment to hold multiple steel panels in place as they are anchored into the ground. He said he knows Trump will be impressed.

“The Corps said it couldn’t be done, but now the Border Patrol has seen it,” Fisher said, of his construction project, in an interview Wednesday on “The Flag,” a show on North Dakota’s WZFG News. “They’ve been out each day and the proof’s in the pudding, and after that it’s going to open up a whole new narrative about how border security should be handled, who should construct it, and the border agents will finally get what they deserve. And we’ll prove it in a half mile stretch where they said it couldn’t be done.”

Collecting private donations, a group called We Build the Wall has raised $22 million for the cause. The group has announced a raffle for a “wall reveal ceremony” it said will be attended by its “MAGA All Star board of advisers.”

“Witness history made on completion of the first privately funded section of the border wall!” it reads. Cramer said Fisher is working with We Build the Wall. The group did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has repeatedly brought up Fisher after hearing about the company in early 2019, administration officials said.

In an earlier meeting with military and DHS officials in the Oval Office, Trump said the government was getting ripped off by current contractors — and that Fisher could do it for less than half the price, and with concrete. “The president got very spun up about it,” said one person with direct knowledge of the meeting.

Officials from the Army Corps and DHS then met with Kushner several times to explain why Fisher wasn’t the best deal. Kushner was intimately interested in the cost of the wall and why other companies were being chosen over Fisher, administration officials said. Trump repeatedly told advisers that Fisher should be the company, administration officials said, and he has remained focused on the cost of the wall and how slow its progress has been.

Excavators work on land that abuts the Mexico border in Sunland Park, N.M., where private money is being used to build border barriers on private land. (Jordyn Rozensky and Justin Hamel/For The Washington Post)

Army Corps of Engineers officials evaluated Fisher’s proposal and said they didn’t meet the requirements of the project — and that their proposal was cheaper because it wasn’t as high quality, or as sophisticated, in their view.

Finally, officials, including then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, went into the Oval Office this spring and explained that Fisher could bid, but that the company’s proposal needed to change.

Nielsen and Semonite separately explained that the president could not just pick a company. Nielsen did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump remained frustrated, saying that Fisher said they could build it cheaper and faster. “He said these other guys were full of s---,” the official said.

Fisher was added to a pool of competitors after the Army Corps came under pressure from the White House, administration officials said.

On Tuesday, after Semonite was called to a meeting with Cramer on Capitol Hill, the senator posted a photograph of the encounter to Twitter, saying he had “discussed border wall construction” with Army Corps leaders.

Cramer said he was glad the president is so involved in the process. Cramer said he was elected to cut through Washington’s entrenched bureaucracy.

“Good for him. It’s why he is the president of the United States. He knows a thing or two about building big projects,” Cramer said. This is why he’s president.”

Cramer said he has long known the Fisher family and that he is not advocating for the company because its ownership has donated money to his campaigns.

“I was doing it before they were a financial contributor,” he said. “For no other reason than the fact that he’s a constituent of mine.”

Cramer said he had gone down to the border to see Fisher’s “show and tell” demonstration. The senator said he has discussed the company with Semonite, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and others.

Tommy Fisher and his wife gave more than $10,000 — the maximum allowable contributions — to Cramer in 2018 as he ran for Senate, campaign finance records show. Fisher was Cramer’s special guest at Trump’s State of the Union speech in February, and the CEO said he shook the president’s hand afterward.

Trump backed Cramer last year in his campaign to unseat Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. During his Senate run, Cramer appeared in a social media video at Fisher headquarters in North Dakota, driving an excavator.

“Here at Fisher Industries in Dickinson, N.D. I tested just how easy it is install a panel of wall myself,” Cramer wrote on Twitter.

The grounds of American Eagle Brick Company, in Sunland Park, N.M. (Jordyn Rozensky and Justin Hamel/For The Washington Post)
Nick Miroff
Nick Miroff covers immigration enforcement, drug trafficking and the Department of Homeland Security on The Washington Post’s National Security desk. He was a Post foreign correspondent in Latin America from 2010 to 2017, and has been a staff writer since 2006. Follow
Josh Dawsey
Josh Dawsey is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. He joined the paper in 2017. He previously covered the White House for Politico, and New York City Hall and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the Wall Street Journal. Follow

Thursday, 23 May 2019

ADWEEK/Patrick Coffee: NRA Files Second Lawsuit Against Ackerman McQueen, Seeking $40 Million for Alleged ‘Coup’ Attempt

Brand Marketing

NRA Files Second Lawsuit Against Ackerman McQueen, Seeking $40 Million for Alleged ‘Coup’ Attempt
The suit accuses the agency of leaking documents to media

By Patrick Coffee
5 hours ago
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at 2018 CPAC Conference.
Getty Images

The National Rifle Association has sued its longtime ad agency of record Ackerman McQueen for the second time in just over a month, accusing the agency of leaking unflattering information about the nonprofit gun group to the press and engaging in a “conspiracy” to “tarnish and ultimately destroy the image of the NRA and its senior leadership” and engineer a “coup.”

The suit demands a jury trial and $40 million in damages, equivalent to the total billings reportedly paid to the agency by the NRA in 2017.

Oklahoma City-based Ackerman McQueen and PR division Mercury Group denied these claims in a statement, calling them “another reckless attempt to scapegoat” the agency for its client’s “breakdown in governance, compliance and leadership.” The NRA has not yet responded to requests for comment beyond the filing itself, which is embedded at the bottom of this story.
"The NRA never expected it would be forced to sue one of its closest collaborators."
Briglia Hundley, law firm representing the NRA

The Daily Beast first reported on the case after it was filed on Wednesday evening in the Circuit Court of Alexandria, Va. by law firm Briglia Hundley.

This news follows an earlier suit, filed in April and first reported by The Wall Street Journal, in which the NRA accused Ackerman McQueen of failing to comply with requests for documents concerning the allocation of millions for its services, which range from creative advertising to public relations and oversight of the NRATV content platform. Since news of that filing broke, related coverage has included a Wall Street Journal report citing leaked documents to show that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre charged personal expenses, such as clothing and travel, to the agency.

This week’s filing specifically accuses Ackerman McQueen of providing confidential information to the Journal along with other outlets including The New York Times, The Daily Beast and Rolling Stone.

“It is a sad day for NRA members that their leadership is more focused on attacking partners than fighting for freedom,” read a statement from the agency representative. “Once again the National Rifle Association leadership’s new lawsuit is another reckless attempt to scapegoat Ackerman McQueen for the NRA’s own breakdown in governance, compliance and leadership. We have done our job to protect the brand for decades and have continued to do so despite shameless and inaccurate attacks on our integrity and our personnel by a leadership group that is desperate to make this a story about anything other than their own failures.”
"It is a sad day for NRA members that their leadership is more focused on attacking partners than fighting for freedom."
Ackerman McQueen spokesperson

According to the NRA, now-former Ackerman McQueen employee and retired Lt. Colonel Oliver North delivered “an extortion threat” demanding that LaPierre step down, withdraw the group’s initial suit and support leadership changes supported by the agency “or be publicly smeared.”

The suit goes on to claim that after LaPierre refused to accede to these demands, the agency engaged in “off-the-record” exchanges with unnamed journalists in which it shared confidential records regarding the NRA’s “finances, operations and expense-accounting practices.”

“For years, the NRA trusted and depended upon AMc to deliver core, critical services,” the document reads. “The NRA never expected it would be forced to sue one of its closest collaborators.”

The filing details the unusually intimate relationship between agency and client, which have collaborated for almost 40 years on “publicly and politically sensitive” campaigns. It goes on to allege that Ackerman McQueen violated the terms of a services agreement that “strictly limits use and disclosure” of all information related to that relationship.

The NRA also concedes that the agency has long been responsible for “shaping the public image” of group leaders such as LaPierre and that these duties include directing and producing everything from television bookings to “wardrobe expenses,” like those mentioned in the earlier WSJ report.

“Of course, AMc should not have incurred (let alone sought reimbursement for) any expenses which it believed inappropriate,” the document reads.

The clash between agency and client, the suit claims, began in 2018 when the NRA “became aware of concerns raised by multiple employees, executives and board members that AMc’s expenses and activities required greater oversight” in keeping with amendments to New York State’s Not-for-Profit Corporation Law. According to the new filing, the agency then “became evasive and hostile” and brought in outside counsel as the NRA requested access to more of its internal records and the relationship grew increasingly “adverse.”

“The NRA does not take kindly to threats—and neither did LaPierre,” the suit reads. Finally, it claims that Ackerman McQueen continues to provide “misleading, defamatory” leaks to various media outlets.

The full filing is below.

Pages: 1 2
Patrick Coffee
Patrick Coffee
Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
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National Review/Mairead McArdle: WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Indicted on 18 Counts of Conspiracy

National Review

May. 23, 2019

    ... News
Law & the Courts   
WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Indicted on 18 Counts of Conspiracy
By Mairead McArdle   

May 23, 2019 4:38 PM

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after he was arrested by British police, in London, Britain, April 11, 2019. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

A federal grand jury in Virginia has indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 18 charges, including conspiracy to obtain national-security secrets and leaking classified information.

The Justice Department charged the embattled self-described journalist with conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, including one count of conspiring to receive classified national-security information, including State Department reports on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, seven counts of obtaining that information, nine counts of releasing it, and one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. Only the computer intrusion charge was included in the original indictment, which was unsealed when Assange was arrested in London in April after his eviction from the Ecuadoran embassy.

The WikiLeaks founder’s behavior “risked serious harm” to the U.S., according to the indictment.

Prosecutors, who charged Assange under the espionage act, said the WikiLeaks databases had close to 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 State Department cables.
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The issue of Assange prosecution became politically fraught over concerns that the Wikileaks founder’s First Amendment rights were being violated, but the Justice Department drew a line between journalists and Assange, who they argued severely compromised national security.

“The department takes seriously the role of journalists in our democracy and we thank you for it. It is not and never has been the department’s policy to target them for reporting. But Julian Assange is no journalist,” said John Demers, chief of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “Indeed, no responsible actor, journalist or otherwise, would purposely publish the names of individuals he or she knew to be confidential human sources in war zones.”

Assange, 47, is currently detained in London as the U.S. attempts to extradite him.

OZY/Molly Fosco: CRISPR 2.0: The Scientist With Your Genetic Life in His Hands



CRISPR 2.0: The Scientist With Your Genetic Life in His Hands
CRISPR 2.0: The Scientist With Your Genetic Life in His Hands
Rising Stars
Why you should care

Using new gene-editing technology, David Liu is on his way to treating, and possibly eradicating, thousands of diseases.

By Molly Fosco

The Daily DoseMAY 23 2019

Adam Zwan is one of just 18 people in the United States battling a rare genetic disease called Wolfram syndrome, which causes childhood diabetes and hearing and vision loss. The average life expectancy for sufferers is 30 to 40 years, and Zwan is 30. Growing up, he took nine different prescription medications but has managed, through diet and exercise, to bring that number down to three. Still, there is no known cure for Wolfram syndrome.

Enter David Liu, a chemistry and chemical biology professor at Harvard and senior associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Liu has developed a new class of DNA base editors that can switch a single letter of DNA with another, opening the door to treatments, and possibly cures, for thousands of genetic diseases caused by one small “typo” in DNA. Think of it as CRISPR 2.0, a new iteration of the powerful gene-editing tool that could alter the genomic structure of mutations associated with diseases like sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, genetic blindness and more. Years of research are needed before any kind of drug therapy could reach the market, but Harvard has granted a worldwide license to Beam Therapeutics Inc., co-founded by Liu, to develop and commercialize a suite of DNA base editing technologies for treating human disease.

    I was very interested in harnessing evolution to solve interesting problems.

    David Liu

As a kid in Riverside, California, Liu, now 45, was already into science. He insists his physics professor mother and aerospace engineer dad would’ve been happy with any career he chose, “as long as it wasn’t illegal.” Liu picked chemistry because he was fascinated by how individual molecules behave. “I wanted to understand this natural phenomenon in detail,” he says.

Harvard has long been Liu’s academic home. As a freshman there in 1990, he joined E.J. Corey’s lab after meeting him in Stockholm, where the organic chemist was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in retrosynthetic analysis. “David is an incredibly bright individual with a love of discovery and scientific adventure,” Corey says.
Screenshot 2019 05 15 at 9.40.55 pm


Liu with his mother (center) and sister (left).

“Incredibly bright” is an understatement: Liu graduated first in his class at Harvard and, according to Corey, his final thesis was perfect. “There’s not a single thing I would’ve changed.”

Liu swapped coasts to begin a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked with chemist Peter Schultz, celebrated for his work synthesizing new molecules for desired functions and, in particular, efforts to expand the genetic code in living cells. When Liu was midway through his graduate degree, Corey invited him back to Harvard to deliver a seminar on his research. Corey’s colleagues were so impressed with Liu that he was offered a full-time faculty position — at age 26. “That’s almost unheard of,” Corey says. He finished his Ph.D. at Berkeley in June 1999 and started as an assistant professor at Harvard a few weeks later.

Liu’s graduate work on the expansion of the genetic code led him to pioneer DNA-templated synthesis, now called DNA-encoded libraries, which involves affixing DNA strands with small molecules to create numerous combinations of new molecules. “I was very interested in harnessing evolution to solve interesting problems,” he says. Liu eventually started his own lab at Harvard to integrate chemistry and evolution and to develop new forms of human therapeutics.

Alexis Komor, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, helped develop the CRISPR base editing tool as a student in Liu’s lab in 2017. She says he showed a lot of faith in her. “I don’t think he knew how little of a biology background I had,“ Komor says. Liu worked with her to develop a project, rather than simply assigning one, and the experience shaped how Komor runs her own lab at UCSD, where they focus on studying DNA damage and repair. “I work with the students to develop projects so they have ownership,” she says.


Liu sharing advice with young chemistry stars at the annual Talented 12 ceremony.

So far, much of Liu’s research has remained in the lab where he’s made considerable advancements with his base editor in animal studies. “Our lab has corrected the mutation that causes rapid aging disease in mice,” he says. Humans, however, are a more fickle beast. To bring this technology to clinical trials is a complicated, multistep process and, adds Liu, the biology must be “bulletproof.” Once it’s been proven both safe and effective in humans, you still have to apply to the FDA, a hurdle that can take years to clear.

But Liu’s getting a lot closer with the help of four biotech startups he’s launched (he’s founded six in total but two are no longer active). Editas Medicine is focused on developing therapies for genetic diseases, and Pairwise Plants is using Liu’s base editor to genetically modify fruits and vegetables with financial backing from Monsanto. Somewhat surprisingly, Liu says he’s yet to receive pushback for taking money from the controversial agrochemicals corporation.

Just last month, Editas received FDA approval to test a new drug application designed to treat the leading cause of childhood blindness. If the clinical trials happen as planned, it will be one of the first times CRISPR has been administered as medicine inside the body of a human patient. Still, the trials require “broad expertise and hundreds of millions of dollars,” Liu says.

Beyond the staggering sums of money, time and resources needed to bring any CRISPR therapy to market, there’s the issue of access. “These procedures will likely remain extremely expensive for years to come,” says Ross Wilson, an investigator at the Innovative Genomics Institute in Berkeley, who worries insurers won’t cover the cost until the price comes down.

Liu agrees on the need for broader access and he’s confident that CRISPR therapies will drop in price over time. “I would be very disappointed if pricing were a major limitation to patient benefit from therapeutics that developed from our work, and I’m pretty sure most therapeutics companies would share my disappointment,” he says. For now, though, ensuring the safety and efficacy of the treatment is his top priority.

It’s a priority you’d think wouldn’t allow for much downtime, but Liu enjoys a number of hobbies, from woodturning and photography to playing video games and watching reality television — the talent competition variety, he clarifies, “not the ones where the whole point is personal drama.”

One hobby he’s had to let go of due to lack of time is gambling. In the early 2000s, Liu trained a group of Harvard undergrads to count cards with astonishing accuracy, earning them six-figure winnings at Las Vegas blackjack tables. “It was a great use of applied math,” Liu says with the hint of a smile.

For now, Liu will stick to using his math skills in the lab, where the payoff could be even bigger.
OZY’s 5 Questions With David Liu

    What’s the last book you read? Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah.
    What do you worry about? That humans seemed to have evolved to make hasty, black-and-white judgments, but making good decisions usually requires a more nuanced consideration of all the shades of gray.
    What’s the one thing you can’t live without? This rectangle of glass and metal I’m tapping now.
    Who’s your hero? Whoever invented beef jerky. Especially the spicy kind.
    What’s one item on your bucket list? Cure a genetic disease.

Read more: This scientist turned CEO wants to gene edit a way to cure cancer.

    Molly Fosco, Reporter
    Follow Molly Fosco on Twitter
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