Silicon Valley's Mike Homer Teams up with UCSF Scientists for Fight of His Life

Mike Homer

Mike Homer has been one of the leading forces in Silicon Valley for more than two decades. In May, he was diagnosed with the rare neurodegenerative disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, known as CJD. Now, the 49-year-old husband and father of three young children is fighting for his life, with the assistance of physicians at UCSF Medical Center. And he's taken the fight beyond his own predicament. Homer, his wife Kristina and two of his closest friends in Silicon Valley are spearheading a fundraising campaign, "Fight for Mike," that aims to provide the UCSF team - the world's leading cadre of scientists and physicians researching and exploring treatments for the brain-wasting disease - with the funding they need to expand and accelerate clinical trials for a drug strategy they are investigating. The UCSF team includes Stanley Prusiner, MD, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997 for discovering the abnormally shaped protein, known as a prion (PREE-on), that causes CJD and related diseases in humans and animals, including "mad cow" disease in cattle. In 2001, Prusiner's lab discovered that quinacrine, once used to treat malaria, kills prions in mouse cells in the culture dish. Then the team found interesting results in mice. In 2005, UCSF began testing the drug in a human clinical trial. Today, the team is working to improve quinacrine's effectiveness, expand the current clinical trial and discover and validate new treatments. Homer and his wife have learned that what the team needs to accelerate their progress is financial support. He is working with his friends in Silicon Valley to raise money to fight the disease. The goal, says the former marketing executive at Apple Computer and Netscape, is "to be around for my kids," and to help "a whole lot of other people who come after me." (3:18 video segment)
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Additional video formats On June 14, 2007, 300 of Silicon Valley's top leaders gathered at the invitation of the Homers and their friends to hear the UCSF team discuss the disease and what needs to be done to accelerate progress in treating it. The event was hosted by Bill Campbell, chair of the board and former CEO of Intuit Inc. and a leading advisor to technology companies, and Ron Conway, founder and general partner of Angel Investors, a major investor in technology companies and vice chair of the board of the UCSF Foundation. The goal - turn out for Mike, in a fight for one of their own. (59:30 video segment)
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Additional video formats What they learned: Most cases of CJD develop sporadically, for no apparent reason. A minority of cases are inherited. One percent of cases develop as a result of infection, such as from eating the prion-tainted beef diagnosed in cattle beginning in the mid 1980s in Great Britain. Homer, who most likely has the sporadic form of the disease, definitely does not have the infectious form. They also learned that Prusiner's discovery that an abnormally shaped protein can cause disease has galvanized scientists' understanding of more common neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS, which are now known to be diseases of misshapen or misprocessed proteins. It is possible that CJD will be the first neurodegenerative disease to be conquered, says one of Homer's physicians, Bruce Miller, MD, director of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, and that the cure will catalyze drug strategies against these other diseases. It is a fight that will require the ongoing rapid translation of discoveries made in the lab to the patient bedside, says Homer's primary physician, Michael Geschwind, MD, PhD, recruited from Johns Hopkins University in 2000. It is a fight that Homer is determined to help win. Related Links: Fight for Mike: Help Mike Homer Fight Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
UCSF Foundation Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) Frequently Asked Questions
UCSF Foundation The Fight for Mike
Boomtown Blog, All Things Digital, June 15, 2007 Two Old Drugs May Help Fight Prion Diseases
UCSF Today, August 14, 2001