Ordinary people helping save lives

Print
Email
|

by JOAN KINSEY / Evening Magazine

Bio | Email

KING5.com

Posted on September 11, 2013 at 4:31 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 11 at 4:33 PM

Anesthesia, antibiotics and vaccines are all medical breathroughs that changed the world.

What's next? It possible you could help determine that, even if you're not a doctor.

It sounds medically impossible, but without any experience whatsoever you can develop a drug that cures a major disease.

"At some point, somebody's drugs actually gets to help a patient," said Dr. Jim Olson. "Everybody in the world will know that their drug was the one that made an impact and got FDA approved."

Dr. Olson at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is recruiting "citizen scientists." He wants you to join his team by adopting a drug.

"You get to name that drug, follow that drug's progress and you to learn, have interaction with that team," he said.

"Project Violet" was inspired by on of Dr. Olson's patients, Violet, who bravely died of an inoperable brain tumor.

"In reality we have buildings named after wealthy donors, stadiums named after corporations, and I wanted the most exciting science project i've ever worked on to be named after this little girl," said Dr. Olson.

Project Violet is an innovative way to raise money for research. Online, "citizen scientists" make a donation. In return, they get to select a force of nature, like a potato or spider.

These are animals and vegetables that naturally make drugs to fight predators.

"If you think about it, a spider that makes the best drugs gets to grow up and make baby spiders," Dr. Olson said. "So there is an evolutionary pressure to make drugs that do what you want them to do."

Dr. Olson has already used nature to invent "tumor paint."

It comes from the molecule of a scorpion and goes inside the body to make cancer cells light up. As they glow, surgeons can easily see and remove them.

"So right now we are making thousands of drug candidates from sources of nature and each of those drug candidates that we are making will be going into testing for Alzheimer's, autism, or cancer," Dr. Olson said. "And each time some of those drugs move forward in the process we will be sharing with the community where we made progress.

But to make progress Dr. Olson needs you to adopt the drug of a horseshoe crab or a petunia.

Then follow his team as medical magic happens.

"So to have an impact on a whole variety of diseases we consider incurable, what could be more exciting than that," he asked.

Even if the drug you adopt fails, you can replace it with a new one so you're always on the cutting edge of a medical breakthrough.

See how even you can help cure a major disease.

Related links:
- Dr. Olson's TED Talk on his research
- Project Violet

Print
Email
|