Serendipity Happens! - Bio-Defense Network
Apr 2015

Serendipity Happens!

By David Reddick

In one of my jobs, I’ve been given the opportunity to help (in a very small way) create a long range strategic plan for Saint Louis University, and I was pleased to be assigned to the portion of the plan covering healthcare.  (The university has schools of nursing, medicine and applied health, as well as a college for public health, which is how I got interested.)

I’d been thinking about some “off-the-wall” ideas the university might find interesting, and through conversations with colleagues came up with the concept of suggesting the creation of a formalized program that will help researchers tap the crowd-funding craze to pay for research that for whatever reason didn’t qualify for the more typical sources of money, like the National Institutes of Health.

My idea was that ordinary people like me might want to toss a few bucks to a researcher whose focus was interesting to me, and something I would be willing to donate to, with no expectation of ever getting a repayment, other than perhaps a thank-you note.

While I was mulling this, a very talented lady who helps Bio-Defense Network with its newsletter invited me to attend a day-long session of TEDx Talks here in St. Louis.  TED is short for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” and groups around the nation produce TED events, which feature 18-minute presentations by people who are interested in offering their views on a number of topics.  At first, I declined, since my wife and I had a conflict, but when the conflict dissolved, I emailed my friend and asked if the offer stood.  It did, so we went.

(What I didn’t know until I arrived is that my friend was the executive director of the local TED group, so an invitation from her meant I was welcome to join several hundred other very interesting people to hear the talks.)

As we were enjoying talks on topics ranging from promoting the easing of filing patents, the importance of bio-diversity, and even a strip tease offered by a lovely practitioner of burlesque (The “E” after all does stand for “Entertainment!”) a biotechnical entrepreneur took the stage and began talking about ways to support progress in medical research.

“We should look at ideas like crowd-funding for research,” he said, as the hair on the back of neck stood up.  He went on to talk about the value of providing “compassionate care” for terminally ill patients whose lives might be extended – or even saved – with the use of yet-to-be tested, or proven, medications, something I had not thought of, but which made sense to me.

“That’s why we came!” I nearly shouted to my wife, who thought maybe the stripper was the real ‘reason’ I was there.

As soon as the speaker was finished, I went down to him, where had taken a seat in the front row and passed him my card.  We’ve since had a meeting, and his ideas of compassionate care and potential crowd-funding of research play a prominent place in the recommendations I just submitted to the university.

We should always be open to the power of serendipity.  You just never know what may happen!


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