Monthly Archives: April 2011

TEDMED sold to Jay Walker

One of the greatest conferences in the world, TEDMED, has recently gained new leadership. TEDMED was co-founded by Richard Saul Wurman and Marc Hodosh and now has a new co-owner, Jay Walker. The deal caused a bit of a scandal when Richard Saul Wurman has sent out a letter, where he expresses his disappointment with this change. Here’s the letter:

“Friends of TEDMED, sponsors (profit and particularly non-profit), conferees, personal friends, presenters and service providers,

On the advice of counsel and because I feel it is my moral and ethical responsibility to all of you who have given me and TEDMED the benefits of your enthusiasm, energy, brilliance and financial support, without which I would never have been able to produce this or any conference, I am writing to inform you that Mr. Hodosh, to whom I entrusted TEDMED, has sold the conference to Mr. Walker for $16 million with future additional payments of as much as $9 million, and options to Mr. Walker’s new company, TEDMED LLC. I will have no further involvement of any kind with TEDMED.  This was finalized without my concurrence while I was away on spring holiday with my wife and grandchildren.

You are all smart people and I don’t think I need to breast-beat or vent what has led me to this very difficult and painful decision (though I am sorely tempted).  Let it suffice to say that the way in which this deal was made and their plans for the future of the conference have made it impossible for me to continue to participate.

I have been informed by Mr. Walker and Mr. Hodosh in separate conversations that this year’s TEDMED will be the last one in San Diego at the beautiful Hotel Del Coronado. Next May it will move to the Washington, D.C. area and morph into a mega-event, rather like a medical Davos.  I point you to a New York Times article written by Andrew Ross Sorkin which gives the flavor of that event:

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/01/24/a-hefty-price-for-entry-to-davos/?scp=2&sq=DAVOS&st=cse

This is completely alien to the spirit and passion with which TEDMED has thrived, and not in any way a form that has interest to me.  In fact, it is the antithesis of what I believe made TED, when I created it, TEDMED, and the eg conference, unique and magical.  The Washington event will even have formal dress balls in the evening.

So, if life is full of curve balls, I now have my catcher’s mitt on and I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks to all of you for all you have given to me and the conference, and to let you know that I will be back in touch with you soon regarding, what I do think, will be the new direction for gatherings (as an alternative, not a replacement to the old form), a mold-breaking, new kind of communication that I have been contemplating for the last year and is now very close to being ready to announce.

It is called WWW.WWW and it will occur in September 2012 as a live and quite affordable iPAD enterprise app.  It will combine a small live audience with pairings of various combinations of the 100 greatest minds of the twenty-first century in improvised conversations addressing the key W words such as the World, Weather, Water, War, Well-being, Wealth, the Web, Wit; I think you get it.  Intellectual jazz.

I do hope to see all of you again on this and other future adventures.

RSW“

I have to say I’ve got a very good feeling about this change. Frankly speaking, I was quite disappointed to hear some of the speakers expressing ideas promoting death, like for example, the poetry written by Richard Saul Wurman’s wife. The main idea of that poem was “we are all going to die and there’s nothing we can do about it, and therefore shouldn’t even bother trying.” That was so strange to hear at the conference that is devoted to new technologies aimed at improving our health and extending our lives. Let me simply remind you that the conference started with the beautiful singing of Charity Tillemann-Dick, who got back to opera singing after having a double lung transplant. She and her doctors dared to fight death and won. That’s a great example of life-saving and life-improving technologies that TEDMED was created to promote. I hope the future TEDMED conferences will have more stories about how technology can help us improve and prolong people’s lives. We all need that, because life is the most precious thing that we have.

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The Most Important Scientific Discovery of the Year

Our body is constantly being stressed. There’s nothing new about it and everybody seems to understand what it means. But I’d like to clarify what stress is from the biological point of view. The term stress stands for the negative effects including oxidation of macromolecules with free radicals, inflammation and infections, lack of nutrients, increase or decrease in temperature, light regime disturbance, impact of ionizing radiation. It all leads to damage on molecular and tissue levels. Our body has got the mechsnisms that protect us from this damage. It’s the mechanisms of stress resistance: DNA repair (the glossary is below), autophagy, proteasome activity, xenobiotic detox systems and anti-oxidant systems, heat shock factors, LON mitochondrial protease, methionine sulfoxide reductase, neuroendocrinological regulation of homeostasis.

A paper of extreme importance for fighting aging came out in the Nature journal on Thursday. A research group from Buck Institute lead by Professor Gordon Lithgow was able to prolong life of nematodes by 78% by adding one compound to the worms’ diet – a dye Thioflavin T. The authors showed that the effect of the dye was due to activation of stress resistance mechanisms, which lead to significant increase in median (60%) and maximum lifespan (43-78%). Thioflavin T is used to mark the amyloid protein aggregates in Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Lithgow’s group showed that this compound regulates protein homeostasis, which leads to life extension in nematodes and improvement of their health later in life. The effect of Thioflavin T depends on autophagy, proteasomal functions, heat shock factor-1 (HSF-1) and transcription factor SNK-1. Both of these proteins play a role in response to stress in nemamtodes: HSF-1 triggers the production of heat shock proteins and SNK-1 takes part in neutralizing oxidative stress. So, Thioflavin T intensificates cellular stress response by activating signaling pathways dependant on HSF-1 and SNK-1, which lealds to misfolded protein stabilization and increased longevity.

This article proves the possibility to prolong life by activating stress resistance using chemical compounds simply added to the diet. There’s also some research where the positive effect on longevity was achieved by mutations in genes governing stress resistance. For example, the work of Dr. Alexey Moskalev, where they activated the DNA repair gene GADD45 and extended maximum lifespan of drosophilas by 77%. Right now it is necessary to identify the chemicals that would activate GADD45 genes in humans and develop drugs based on these compounds.

I’d like to highlight the need of creation of a new class of drugs – geroprotectors. Their distinctive feature is that not so much they will cure the already manifested diseases, as they will prevent them. And the most important part is that geroprotectors will extend our lives. In order for these drugs to be created it is necessary to fund research on activation of stress resistance genes and clinical trials of chosen chemical activators. Again, I’d like to stress that it is time to start clinical trial of geroprotectors.

Glossary:

DNA repair – restoration of damaged DNA structures

Autophagy – process of digestion of cellular components, including damaged proteins and organelles, in lysosomes

Proteasome – protein complex that degrades proteins in the end of their life cycle

Xenobiotics – foreign chemical compaound for an organism, like antibiotics

Heat shock proteins – class of protection proteins, which expression is increased upon high temperature or other stresses

LON Mitochondrial protease – enzyme that cleaves oxidized proteins in the mitochondrial matrix

Methionine sulfoxide reductase – enzyme that restores the oxidized proteins structure by turning methionine sulfoxide into methinine

Neuroendocrinal regulation of homeostasis – maintaining the equilibrium of the internal environment of the organism via the vegetative nervous and endocrine systems

HSF-1 – heat shock factor-1, triggers synthesis of heat shock proteins as a response to ovarious types of stress

Transcription factors – regulatory proteins that control the transfer of the information from the DNA to the mRNA molecules that recognize their target genes by binding to specific fragments of DNA

SNK-1 – transcription factor in nematodes that participates in protection from the oxidative stress

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