Noe Valley Voice November 2005

Democratic Club Hosts Panel on Stem Cell Research

By Noel Lieberman

The thorny issue of stem cell research is coming to Noe Valley. The Noe Valley Democratic Club will sponsor an informational panel discussion, "Stem Cell Research: The Promise, the Hype, and the Reality," at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at the Noe Valley Ministry. Admission is free and open to the public.

The panel will include Mary Maxon, deputy vice chair of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM); Rik Derynck, co-director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Tissue Biology at the University of California, San Francisco; David Serrano Sewell, a patient advocate for multiple sclerosis and a member of CIRM's board of directors; and Jeff Sheehy, a patient advocate for HIV/AIDS, who is also on the board.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was established by state Proposition 71 to promote stem cell research in the state.

At the Democratic Club program, Maxon will discuss CIRM's goals and objectives and give examples of projects that the institute will undertake. Derynck will bring the audience up to date on the scientific aspects of stem cell research. Sheehy and Serrano Sewell will discuss their functions on the CIRM board and their perspective on stem cell research vis à vis their particular advocacies.

Maxon has made key contributions throughout her career in the field of gene expression, authoring several publications in bacterial, fungal, and human systems, in addition to more recent work in cell biology and drug discovery. Before joining the California Institute, she organized and chaired a National Academies of Science conference in India on new drug opportunities for neglected diseases in the developing world, and remains active in the global health community.

UCSF launched the Institute for Stem Cell and Tissue Biology in September of this year. The institute unites under one umbrella two major programs exploring the nature of stem cells. Panelist Derynck is director of one program, which focuses on the development and biology of bone, cartilage, muscle, fat, and connective tissue.

Serrano Sewell is a deputy city attorney in the San Francisco city attorney's office, assigned to the Port of San Francisco. He has served on the city's Ethics and Elections Commission and on the board of directors of BRAVA! for Women in the Arts. After his own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, he began volunteering with the Northern California Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Sheehy worked with state Senator Carole Migden on the Survive AIDS Initiative to raise funds for organ transplants for people with HIV. In 1996, he and two colleagues conceived, drafted, and lobbied for San Francisco's Equal Benefits Ordinance, which requires companies contracting with the city to provide domestic partner benefits. Sheehy was appointed HIV/AIDS adviser to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 and has been deputy director for communications at the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF since 2000.

Registration begins at 6:30 p.m. for the panel discussion at the Ministry, located at 1021 Sanchez Street near 23rd Street. For more information, contact Democratic Club President Rafael Mandelman at 648-4010.