Calling On Thought Leaders

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TME-RGudobbaThis article is not about the mortgage industry, per se, but continues the theme of the previous articles in which I’ve talked about different industries focusing on consumer expectations regarding the use of technology to enhance their selection and use of their products. We are going to look at two unique individuals, who encountered a stressful situation on their personal quest to make a change for the better.

First, it all began when John Kanzius was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and consequently set out to find “a better way” to treat the disease. After his cancer diagnosis in 2002, Kanzius became distressed by the painful side effects of chemotherapy as the drugs wipe out healthy cells alongside cancerous ones. One sleepless night, Kanzius, a broadcaster by trade, wondered: Could radio waves kill cancer cells? Then he wondered: Could doctors tag cancer cells and deploy radio waves — which are otherwise harmless — to heat and destroy them?

The answer, backed by years’ worth of data, appears to be yes. When researchers inject gold nanoparticles into cancer cells, the radio waves heat the metal and kill the cells. The nanoparticles are attached to antibodies that swim through the body seeking out genetic markers that some cancers emit. They ignore the healthy cells.

This all sounds great, but taking an idea from concept to market is no easy task, especially when you are trying to beat cancer. He was relentless, but despite that resolve, time was against him. John created a for-profit company to take the technology and device to market and sought community support to fund the clinical research to “prove’ the concept. Each dollar went to nonprofit institutions conducting the research, never to John’s company or family.

In 2008, a group of community leaders and friends started the Kanzius Foundation, a 501 (c3) non-profit organization to keep the dream alive. The Foundation’s charter was written with the ultimate goal to complete the pre-clinical work and “go out of business” — a rare non-profit model. Following John’s passing in 2009, Mark A. Neidig Sr. was hired as the foundation’s first executive director and given a succinct goal: fund all necessary research. Utilizing multiple communication platforms, the Kanzius Foundation shared a new concept with the world: Destroy the cancer cell, not the patient.

More than $16 million was contributed to make essential research possible. This resulted in more than 25 peer-reviewed, published manuscripts in scientific and medical journals, a key element in securing FDA approval for human trials.

Dr. Steven Curley, the principal investigator, expects to meet with FDA officials by the third quarter of this year. At that meeting, the agency could green light the project for human tests, but more likely will ask for additional studies to assure patient safety. If that’s the case, Curley hopes to start clinical trials in 2015 or 2016.

But the story doesn’t end here. Meanwhile, in her winter home on Sanibel, Kanzius’ widow, Marianne, reflected on her own difficult decision last fall to sell intellectual property rights to the radio wave treatment to AkesoGenX, a Colorado-based firm that she believes has a stronger chance of raising the funds needed to shepherd the project through the FDA trial process. Now Marianne Kanzius is concentrating on her husband’s other great discoveries: That radio waves have the potential of desalinating water and of turning ordinary salt water into a clean energy source.

A researcher had approached her husband believing that the same radio wave principle used in the cancer treatment theory could be used to target salt particles in water, making it drinkable. John Kanzius tested the theory, exposing a vial of salt water to a radio field. In the process, he discovered something incredible: Salt water burns. Early observers had derided it as some sort of trickery, but Kanzius had found support among researchers such as the late Pennsylvania State University materials scientist Rustum Roy, who called the finding the greatest discovery in the field of water in the last 100 years, according to Marianne Kanzius.

“He felt every human being had the right to fresh water,” said Kanzius, who is working to generate scientific and financial support for the water research. And that’s what she wants people to remember — her husband’s humanitarianism and his pledge to find a better way.

The second interesting individual that I want to talk about is Jack Andraka, a Maryland high school sophomore who at age 15 invented an inexpensive and sensitive dipstick-like sensor for the rapid and early detection of pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers. After a close family friend died of pancreatic cancer, Jack (then a ninth grader) became interested in finding a better early-detection diagnostic test. He learned that the lack of a rapid, low-cost early screening method contributed to the poor survival rate among individuals with pancreatic cancer. After thinking further about the problem, he came up with a plan and a budget to put his ideas in motion.

He contacted about 200 research professionals at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health about his plan. He got 199 rejection letters and then finally got an acceptance from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who became his mentor. It was at Dr. Maitra’s lab where Jack developed his test.

The diagnostic method he developed is more than 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of pancreatic cancer’s biomarker protein called mesothelin, and earned him the grand prize $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award – named for Intel’s co-founder – after competing with 1,500 other young scientists from 70 countries. He also won other prizes in smaller individual categories for a total award of $100,500, which he will use towards college. He has formed a company and has applied for both national and international patents.

Since then Jack has won the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Youth Award and has spoken at the Clinton Global Initiative, FutureMed, Chicago Ideas Week, Singularity U, TEDx MidAtlantic, TEDx Redmond, TEDx Orange Coast, TED New York Talent Search, TED Salon London and soon at TED @Long Beach . He has been featured in several documentaries including Morgan Spurlock’s Sundance Film Festival entry “You don’t know Jack”, Linda Peters’ award winning film “Just Jack” as well on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, CNN, BBC, Fox, Rede Record de Televisão and many radio, newspaper and magazine articles around the world. Jack is a member of the National Junior Wildwater Kayak team, a Life Scout and has won numerous awards in national and international math competitions. Quite an amazing story!

I know that you’re asking yourself right about now: Why is he telling us these stories? Here’s why: I see great people achieve great things every day because they took the time to think outside of the box to solve major problems and I think to myself: Where are all the technology evangelists in the mortgage industry? Why don’t we have people like this in our industry stepping up in new and creative ways to improve the mortgage process?

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