Guest commentary: Naples has talent to make Jackson plan work

The debate and many points of view concerning the Jackson Laboratory proposal has been covered in a “fair and balanced” way by the Daily News. No topic in my seven years in Naples has enjoyed more interest and communitywide scrutiny.

I was distressed, however, by the Aug. 3 guest commentary by Dr. Bryan Hanypsiak, director of medical education at Arthrex. He chose to focus on the slow progress of gene therapy research; the absurd thought that community leaders could be “conned” into supporting Jackson; and he took a jab at my good friend, Dr. Paul Liberti, a noted medical scientist, who expressed his support in favor of Jackson in his July 3 Daily News commentary.

In my view, Hanypsiak has missed the point by a wide margin.

I would like to offer the following observations:

n Medicine has always been the “frontier” for a better life. One can go back to Hippocrates (460 B.C.), Maimonides (1135 A.D.), William Harvey (1578), James Parkinson (1755), Joseph Lister (1827), William Osler (1849) or Jonas Salk (1914), all of whom spent their lifetime advancing human life. It seems no matter how challenging or tedious, we humans will always place a priority and will always find the resources to improve life.

n To state that medical science has not cured many diseases in the last 300 years is misleading. Webster defines “cure” as recovery or relief from disease or to restore health. I doubt that medical science will ever eradicate all the viruses, bacteria, birth defects or all the ways our bodies wear out with age.

But, medicine has done a remarkable job in providing “relief from disease.” Consider our progress with pneumonia, tuberculosis, polio, diabetes, heart disease, minimally invasive surgery, organ transplantation, hip and knee replacement, cancer, etc., etc. The average lifespan of the American male in 1910 was 47 years; today, 100 years later, it is 78 years and improving. Not a bad return for whatever it has cost society.

n To me, Naples is a magical place to live. It must be or it would not be such a desired place to live for so many retired executives and professionals from all walks of life. To say that these individuals and this community can be “conned” into supporting “false hope” research is to sadly underestimate them and to not appreciate the “savvy” they used throughout their careers.

I look at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, NCH Healthcare System, Ave Maria, the Naples Wine Festival, the Neighborhood Health Clinic, Opera Naples, Avow Hospice and the many other successful organizations in this community and say, “Bring on Jackson Lab!”

Naples has great capacity and is prepared to take another step forward.

Yes, gene therapy or genomic medicine is slow and complex and many challenges remain. But, what major advances in science were not slow? It took Madam Curie four decades to develop the theory of radioactivity and to discover radium and the use of radioactive isotopes. It took Louis Pasteur five decades to solve the mysteries of rabies, anthrax, cholera and the concepts of vaccination and pasteurization.

It took Michael DeBakey seven decades to pioneer dozens of advances in heart bypass procedures that have improved the lives of millions. The point is, “speed of discovery,” while important, is not the total agenda for the Naples community, nor should it be the measure of success of the Jackson proposal. The bigger picture is the infusion of hundreds of new, well-prepared leading-edge scientists and professionals who will help stretch our community. They will create new and powerful visions of what we can accomplish. A synergy will be created by the many talented people now in Naples. That is what I think Dr. Paul Liberti was championing.

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Comments » 1

ajm3s writes:

If this is about bringing a gene therapy research center via Jackson Labs you are misguided. Those that engage in gene therapy research at a direct level have not shown any interest in this government subsidized site. To date only Jackson Labs.

If this were a desirous site, I would expect at least a group of gene therapy companies applying for this funding. But I do not, so the support is not from the industry but from the organizations you state in this LTE.

Let us be fair and balanced and ask why only Jackson Labs? Again, I ask the citizens to look at other biotech parks started and developed in the past 20 years and look at the efforts that they engaged to attract industry.

I can tell you it did not begin with a single applicant and a hefty subsidy from government only.

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