The Story of Two People
Stop Parkinson’s is a story of two people whose paths crossed, and something wonderful happened. These two people came from completely different backgrounds, with different life experiences, and with different skills and dreams.
- Dr. Steve is a scientist, specializing in medical bioinformatics and biochemistry.
- Annette is a fundraising consultant whose husband was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Their story reminds us that two heads are better than one. This project would not exist if it weren’t for their combined skills and enthusiasm.
Touched by Parkinson’s
A few years ago, Annette noticed some changes in her husband, Bill. Bill started to complain about subtle digestive issues. Once a passionate “foodie”, his interest in food seemed to subside a bit. And his movements appeared to be changing slightly.
Luckily, Bill had a friend who just happened to be a neurologist. His friend recommended that Bill come in for some tests. Those tests included a brief trial of one of the dopamine precursors commonly used to treat Parkinson’s symptoms. Bill’s movements normalized, adding to the evidence that Bill had young onset Parkinson’s.
The diagnosis brought with it the typical range of emotions, fears, frustrations, anger, and denial. Bill seemed to handle it with his typical humor, content to put his health entirely in the hands of his doctor. But from her experience, Annette knew that “there is a huge gap between medicine and science“. tweet this
Annette knew that physicians are usually not aware of all the experimental techniques and substances being used in scientific laboratories around the world. The profession of medicine is very conservative and doctors are not free to try experimental techniques and substances – even if those substances are natural and safe.
The Search for Answers
Annette was inspired to find out what all the options were, and to hear the ideas of the scientists in the field of Parkinson’s research. She wanted Bill to have every advantage. Annette is a fighter with connections.
When Bill was diagnosed, Annette didn’t rush out to any of the emotional support groups (although she’s doing more of that now). She did what she always does – she fixes it.
“That’s just the way my brain works. It’s a bit masculine, I admit“.
So she jumped to action and started asking questions and trying to locate people with answers. She spoke with all of her scientific connections doing research on Parkinson’s disease.
She learned everything she could about the science of Parkinson’s. She was told compelling hypotheses that haven’t yet made it to the press or the science journals. She was looking for things that Bill could do immediately to slow down, stop, or even reverse his Parkinson’s. At the very least she didn’t want his brain cells to continue to die while they were waiting for a cure. Parkinson’s sufferers are not interested in research that will take many years to see any usable results.
Parkinson’s sufferers want to know the best thing they can do RIGHT NOW. tweet this
Every scientist she talked to, every new idea she heard led her to somebody else. It turns out that there are a lot of very smart researchers with a lot of very interesting ideas. Many of them had theories about something that may help… but they all said essentially the same thing: “you have to attack a chain reaction like Parkinson’s disease from multiple angles simultaneously“. tweet this And that is a very tough problem for people to solve. The number of combinations is almost infinite and very difficult to predict.
If People can’t find the cure, ask the Computer
Finally, Annette talked with a team of scientists who were working on an idea that she thought could actually work. It had the potential to find those difficult answers very quickly.
Dr. Steve and his colleague, Dr. Ben, were tinkering with computer algorithms for the purpose of predicting drug combinations for complex diseases. These algorithms are computer programs similar to ones that do automatic stock trading, or make movie recommendations, or predict crime for police. Powerful computers are much better at finding hidden patterns in complex systems than people are. But instead of looking for patterns in movies or stocks or crime, these scientists wanted to use powerful computers to help sufferers of diseases.
Who is Dr. Steve?
Dr. Steve directs a biomedical consulting laboratory. He consults for investors evaluating biomedical companies and projects. This has provided him with vast experience in cutting edge technology and innovation. Dr. Steve also specializes in health policy, specifically European Union policy affecting Central and Eastern European governments and institutions. He regularly finds himself at odds with doctors and medical organizations who he feels misunderstand nutrition science and science in general.
Prior to this project, Dr. Steve was already familiar with the state of research on Parkinson’s disease because one of his uncles was diagnosed. Dr. Steve was curious if there were new treatment options the doctors didn’t know about. Since then, two other family friends have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Dr. Steve feels the frustration with the slow pace of research, especially the lack of therapies for slowing down or stopping Parkinson’s disease itself.
Annette met with Dr. Steve to hear about his research. She liked what she heard and convinced Dr. Steve to focus on Parkinson’s disease as their initial target. Dr. Steve agreed that Parkinson’s disease was ideal because it is a very complex disease that human researchers have not been able to crack. Perhaps the computer could.
Immediately after their initial meeting, Annette used her skills and connections in fundraising to find the money necessary to get the project started.
They agreed that the goal of the new project is to predict the ideal combination and quantities of safe, natural substances that is most likely to slow Parkinson’s disease progression. And it seems to be working. Using a limited amount of data, the algorithm is already finding interesting combinations of available substances that nobody has considered before. So the project continues, more and more data are being incorporated, and the algorithm is being improved. The next stage is to give the computer access to all of the data. Hopefully in the next couple months version 0.1 of the recommendations will be released publicly.
Annette will be managing this blog and an advisory group dedicated to this project. She also manages a Facebook page called Parkinson’s News, whose purpose is to share news about research relating to disease-modifying therapies. She is active on a number of Facebook groups and Parkinson’s related forums. Annette is fundraising for the project and also managing the project’s finances.
Dr. Steve and Dr. Ben are developing and optimizing the AI algorithms. Dr. Ben is a statistics and nutritional epidemiology specialist and is contributing his expertise to the project. Dr. Steve is building and maintaining the computers, securing access to data sets and other information sources, and supervising the technical aspects of the project. Both scientists will be contributing articles for this blog, and answering comments and questions. They both have access to the Facebook fan page and the Twitter account, and will be participating there as well.