Dr. Rick Klausner: We Will Dramatically Decrease Cancer MortalityIn the War on Cancer, Dr. Rick Klausner has been described (by Norman Shwarzkopf) as “The General”. He held numerous influential positions such as Director of the National Cancer Institute, Chief Strategy Advisor at USAid and Executive Director, Global Health at the Gates Foundation. Speaking this week in Tel Aviv, Rick was pragmatic. “We won’t cure cancer. It is many different diseases. However, we now have the tools to dramatically decrease cancer mortality”.
Dr. Rick KlausnerIn the last three years, Dr. Klausner spear-headed two major breakthroughs. In 2013, he co-founded Juno Therapeutics, building on his earlier research. Using patient stem cells, cells are genetically engineered outside of the body. When re-introduced to the body, these can recognize and destroy the cancer cells. The results have been extraordinary, with success rates above 90%. The company now has 600 employees and a market cap of $4.63 billion. “Cancer learns to turn off the immune system. We have begun to learn how to turn it back on”.
Rick Klausner with Shimon Peres. They participated in a panel together The second project, Grail, does not aspire to CURE cancer. Leveraging Illumina’s sequencing technology, where Rick served the last two years as Chief Medical Officer, the company is developing a simple blood test to screen for a variety of cancers. It is led by Jeff Huber and backed by $100 million from Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Google Ventures and other elite investors. “The holy grail in cancer is to find it early, when it is curable". The blood test detects circulating nucleic acids in the cancer cells for a direct measurement that is highly accurate. Once the treatment begins, it takes around ten days for the tumors to leave the body. "I asked patients to describe the feeling of having these heavy tumors leave the body. The analogy several told me was 'it is like ice melting'.
Rick Klausner embracing his cousin, the Israeli writer Amos OzRick was in Israel as Executive Chairman of Wisdo, an Israeli startup leveraging the crowd to extract step by step timelines of a myriad of life challenges, from a diagnosis with an illness to parenting, divorce and more. Wisdo will go live later this year."To me, the future of cancer is clear…it will be a very bad future for the disease and a very good future for humanity”.
Wisdo co-Founder, Boaz Gaon, moderating a discussion with Rick Klausner and Shimon Peres