Can you imagine a cancer treatment made just for you, in a day, for free? One with almost no side-effects?
It sounds like science fiction but I believe it’s within reach if we work together. Here’s why.
When you think about it, cancer is just an infection of your body with some of your own cells that have gone rogue. Not unlike a bacterial infection, which have been treated successfully since penicillin, turning a once-deadly disease into a trivial, take-a-pill-and-go-home fix.
With cancer, treatment requires killing just the rogue cells while leaving the good ones untouched. The challenge is specificity – the ability of the treatment to affect one type of cell and not another. The agents we use today aren’t specific. They’re broad. So broad that they’re akin to busting a few bad guys in New York by nuking the entire city. It’s effective, but there’s a lot of collateral damage. We we really need is a molecular police force able to distinguish good cells from bad – and these were impossible until we had biotechnology.
The biotech industry was birthed in 1971, the same year that President Nixon declared war on cancer. He jumped the gun. At the time, the tools necessary to do the job were too crude. However, over the last 40 years, steady improvements have been made. Incremental advances in molecular and genetic technologies have led to better diagnostics that can find cancers earlier, a better look at cancer cell metabolism than ever before, and a handful of better treatments than conventional radiation or chemotherapy. Steady progress to be sure. But in the next few years, things are going to radically upshift. This is because biotechnology is about to grow exponentially, like computers.
To understand what’s about to happen in cancer, think about our past experience with computer systems. These were first built during the second world war for logistics and code-breaking. Until the mid-1970′s, they remained big, expensive machines only available to elite groups. Then the microprocessor changed everything by making computers personally affordable. The result was a transformational shift to society and economy that has literally changed the world. Today, it is biotechnology that is poised to go personal. And one of the first “killer apps” will be the things that kill us, like cancer.
What will hold this transformation back isn’t technology. No, this will move ahead faster than most of us will be able to keep up. It will be legacy ideas, industries, and regulations that can’t let go and move forward. People often fear and resist change, only shifting their positions when they absolutely have to – like when they get cancer.
I founded the Pink Army Cooperative to help organize and empower people that are ready for change in the cancer space. It’s a biotech company structured as a co-op. A cooperative is a company founded by a group of people that just want to get something made or done – in our case, make better, science-based cancer treatments – not profits. It’s a flat hierarchy where everyone is equal and no one person can become a majority owner. That makes us different than all the other biotechnology companies, who ultimately must focus on profits and bending to the needs of major shareholders.
We’re the most daring and different biotechnology company in the world because we do most things exactly the way others don’t. Chief among these differences is we don’t intend to sell cancer therapies. Instead, we’ll give them away. Yes, for free. We can do this because we’re not making therapies for a large group of people, or even a small one. We’re making them for you and only you. Or me. One person at a time. Completely 100% customized.
The development process starts with you and collecting a sample of your cancer cells. It ends in the lab, when we can demonstrate the therapy we collectively made effectively kills your cancer cells without significantly affecting your normal cells. After this, we make a deal with you: since you’re the only person qualified to take the therapy, and we need to be able to evaluate whether the therapy works or not, we share the therapy to you for free if you share us your experience with the drug. You agree to become a clinical trial of one and to share your data openly with the community.
It’s up to you to weight the risks of taking the therapy (and there are always risks) with the possible benefits that could come from treatment. If you do decide to proceed, the other members of the cooperative, doctors, other cancer patients, even government regulators all benefit from your experience, plus the other information we generate and share. We don’t patent anything.
We can be so radical because our therapies are viruses, the smallest and simplest biological agents on the planet. It turns out viruses can made that only infect cancer cells, killing them while in the process making more viruses. The result? A cancer-fighting chain reaction.
To make cancer fighting viruses, all one needs is a basic understanding of virology and a genome design editor. It’s like a word processor for genetic programs. And access to a DNA printer and basic virology lab. These were once uncommon tools, but biotechnology is changing fast. I know this firsthand, because I’ve been helping drive this change, giving talks around the world on DNA technologies, cancer, and the cooperative.
Pink Army is growing steadily, with each new member purchasing a membership in the cooperative. This costs just $20. The idea is to get a lot of people to become paid members. By doing so, we have enough cash to build our drug development system and treat our first customers. The membership is completely refundable. If you ever want to out, we return your $20, no questions asked.
Each day, we get more resources – more members, more gifts of help (including an entire treatment center), and more money – while biotechnology becomes more powerful, easier, and cheaper to do. Just since the cooperative was founded in 2009, the cost and time need to make a new biotechnology therapy for one person (which skips over the most expensive and slow parts, like big clinical trials) has fallen by 50% (and continues to fall). Meanwhile, our roster has grown from 1 to almost 550 members.
The result? The cooperative is getting tantalizing close to making its first therapy. So stay tuned. Big changes are coming in 2012.