Why I’d not vote for you, Dr. Ayyadurai

Absolutely nothing personal, yet voting is intensely personal.

You’ve proven yourself in the past of being a successful scientist. From what I’ve watched from your video, you’re proving yourself to be a politician.

And that is why I’d not vote for you.

I hope the wider audience beyond the wickedly cool folks of the area will read this, and in as objective of a manner as possible. Yet, as I believe your video shows, much of politics and voting is (unfortunately) driven by raw and irrational emotion (as the 2016 election cycle proved yet again…).

Similar to many people who have a link to Massachusetts (I lived and worked there in the early 2000s, admittedly and importantly for AstraZeneca, the global pharmaceutical company — but don’t demonize me quite yet for this… read on), I am curious to keep up with what is happening in the ‘The Baked Bean State’. So when a friend sent me a link to your Facebook Live video, I wanted to hear what an MIT scientist would have to say. Not just about the current pandemic and potential scientific information (I’m a pharmacist and PhD-trained pharmacologist so the impacts of this on my professional life is quite intense), but how we could finally rationally link science with politics.

Something the Trump administration seems allergic to and for many reasons other authors, like Robert Greene in his The Laws of Human Nature, elegantly capture: People are generally irrational; one might say predictably irrational, according to the wonderful research of Dan Ariely. And politicians are often more predictably irrational than the general population.

It was with excitement and great hope, then, that I began watching your video.

I had to stop, however, well before watching the whole thing because the video was, in my limited experience, a self-promoting ‘ad’ riddled with scientific inaccuracies or partial stories.

Something the Trump administration seems completely adherent to. And something I’d not want you to contribute to in any fashion, regardless if you’d help change the system in ways it objectively needs changing.

What follows are a few of my reflections of what you’ve shared. I hope these do not come across as emotional, staunchly political or statements against you as a person. I’d love to catch a drink with you to explore your experiences and insight because each person represents a learning opportunity for me.

Like I said, I’ve not watched the whole video. In part because of time (I’m in the UK spearheading a medical leadership, education and research programme and dealing with NHS medics during the pandemic), but also because I personally found your language to be riddled by victim statements and half-truths.

Perhaps the reason you’re not being supported in your quest to become a senator is that others are hearing what I’m hearing beyond your words and your experiences. I’d personally not vote for anyone just because she or he has deep and broad science experience — I’d never vote for anyone based on a single attribute. Thus, I listened to your video to hear more of the potential person behind the vote.

What I’d call your ‘victim statements’ and half-truths make you worse than general politicians in some ways — worse because you’re propagating misinformation from a scientific perspective which is more offensive to my scientific perspective.

What do I mean?

Right off the bat you make claims that ‘fake news’ is being shared but don’t qualify the statement. Without a doubt and an inarguable statement, bad information, misinformation and outright lies are being shared by SO many sources, but without qualifying about what you’re speaking, the statement only incites emotions and emotional reactions. You then go on to do the exact thing you’re accusing others of.

What examples do I have. Those from your video directly.

When you talk about your company, Cytosolve, you claim it is different than regular pharmaceutical companies. Yet, is it not a FOR profit entity, generating significant amounts of money for you (the founder), your scientific advisory board and staff? Are you not conducting activities essentially the same to what you are claiming makes pharma companies ‘evil’? And what a non-scientific word: evil. Evil? You’ve quickly gone from business, pharma or other, which most people would agree is simultaneously positive and negative attributes, and have been riddled by ‘bad players’ since the dawn of human civilization.

What makes the men and women who apply their education and training in pharma any worse or better than those in investment banking? those in the used car sales force? lawyers? or oil and gas? Most ignorant people believe the pharma industry is hugely profitable (not true but click here to see who are) or are driving the massive increases in overall healthcare costs in the US and other developed countries (definitely not the whole story so click here to read one of scores of publications showing the costs).

If I really cared about your opinion, your demonization of the industry would be a personal offense to me because I toiled for 15 years in the industry with the sincerest desires to help alleviate pain and suffering of people worldwide, activities that were morally and ethically driven by the VAST majority of my colleagues. Your grossly over exaggerated and over simplified accusatory statement spoke volumes to me: that you’re likely operating from an emotional state and perhaps at odds with your own reality (realizing you’re embedded in the camp of your enemy while trying to justify attacking them).

Speaking of this, how did you generate the significant amount of money you’ve put into your campaign (https://ioncongress.com/index.php?page=Candidate&cand_id=S8MA00268&committee_id=C00638148&chamber=senate)? Sounds like you’ve capitalized quite nicely on your science, your businesses, etc. and good for you. Most academicians toil their entire career because of an innate or intrinsic motivation and not for money. (Of course the punitive damages you were awarded because of Gawker’s demise didn’t hurt. Good for you on that, and God rest Ray Tomlinson’s soul.)

Some would see this as the kettle calling the pot black. A completely expected, but unnecessary, component of politics? Letting science and objectivity speak for themselves should be part of this and your activities, but these are falling short in the present video.

You immediately say “Pharmaceutical companies do not care about toxicity” — which is COMPLETELY untrue. I worked in the industry for 15 years and toxicity is the #1 concern for the scientists and clinicians involved in the work. How dare you offend the hundreds of thousands of wonderful people in the industry who work diligently to help people, not wantonly kill them? Oh, perhaps this is because you’re trying to generate fear and votes.

Please educate people, instead? Just because something turns out to be toxic in wide spread use does not mean those involved were not trying to engineer it OUT. Mother nature, Dr. Ayyadurai, produces the greatest number of toxins known to us and her products are far more efficient of killing the human condition than what we can. Conotoxin, agatoxin, tetrodotoxin, cyanide, ergotamine, arsenic, lead, etc. are all ‘natural’ so Mother Nature must ‘not care about toxicity’ because she allows them into the world?

Bollocks on all fronts as would be said round these parts.

You then call Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Gates Foundation “evil” using this term again. How can you seriously believe this is objective language let alone constructive to any conversation. Sounds extremely emotional and judgement-related at a minimum.

You kick into a new phase of disinformation in your slides on the pharmaceutical industry. These slides might be technically correct but are grossly misleading on many scales.

First, you categorically claim medicine via the pharmaceutical industry is “non-personalized, no precision” but don’t the toxins from Mother Nature kill or help equally well those susceptible to her creations? Besides, if you told the whole story you’d see that personalized medicine is something I and thousands of people in the industry have been involved with and actively advancing (see http://www.personalizedmedicinecoalition.org/ that has been in existence since the early 2000s that has HEAVY pharma investment and support; activities that included policy makers, the public, healthcare systems, etc. so this cannot be seen as a secretive ploy by pharma to control who gets what — or that people do not get targeted medicines when possible).

You know the number of targeted therapies that have come out in the past 20 years has helped many diseases (especially cancers) go from lethal to treatable. You KNOW this so shame on you for propagating such an inaccurate story by only telling part of it.

Saying “Drug Development is Medieval” states the way we discover medications today is the same way we did between the years 476 and 1453 CE. Seriously? Pharma R&D has radically changed since the early 2000s, as you know, and much of your research is embedded in the model. To also say it is “Not that Different from Old Methods of Airplane Development” is as amusing as it is inaccurate. On the amusing side, you show a process that hasn’t been in use for decades (mirroring the other graphics in your slides) as any aviation buff knows — and with graphics of relatively modern planes that had countless ‘in vitro’ and ‘in silico’ prototypes. Plus, this is not how modern medication R&D works. And you know this.

Nearly 20 years ago I created a slide showing how many different ways a pharmacy-trained scientist could contribute to the process:

This is even out of date, yet hugely modernized from your grossly inaccurate depiction of how drug discovery was done in medieval times. How was it done back then?

“Here, eat this.” Death = do not repeat. Nothing apparent response = repeat cautiously. Good response = eat more of it.

You also imply that systems biology is something relatively new and say “They (big pharma) never want to see the whole…” “When it comes to disease, (they) always want to blame a bug…” “(They say)… the only solution to health is a vaccine” and “They don’t want to take a whole systems approach, quite frankly, to any biological phenomenon”. These statements are gross over-exaggerations and are baseless, untrue and offensive. (Your recollection of the link between vitamin C and scurvy is quite interesting, too, because it does not match up with a more accurate historical narrative that any middle school science kid can access and understand.)

Focusing on just one part of your tirade, systems biology is something I was personally involved in back in the early 2000s shortly after it advanced enough to call it a ‘new’ science. I’ve even enjoyed a conversation or two during my career with Dr. Lee Hood who has spoken to its use and potential for longer than you. Incorporating systems biology understanding has been part of drug discovery for decades now, happening literally as the science was unfolding, and you know this, too.

Between personalized medicine and systems biology, but as is true of so many more sciences and technologies (combinatorial chemistry, ultra high throughput in vitro screening, in silico DMPK and toxicity screening, etc.), modern drug discovery and development IS holistic and is meant to be that way. And this why pharma, academia, governments and the public began working together to advance our learning on a HOLISTIC level.

And you know this.

Your slide on new molecular entities (NMEs) — or new ‘drugs’— you show goes only up to 2010. WHY? To my knowledge it is 2020 and the extension of the graph would show a resurgence of NMEs coming out to help treat diseases. Why did you stop at 2010 when we have data from the past decade? Because it doesn’t fit your inaccurate and fear-based narrative.

Here is the narrative you post: big pharma is failing; medicine R&D spending is increasing, total NME’s approved is decreasing.

Here is the rest of the story that you conveniently leave out: total NMEs undergo a somewhat cyclical approval cycle but, if anything, the numbers and, more importantly, the quality and specificity of the medications are steady or steadily increasing, as the REST of the story shows…

Please note, too, that this is only for small molecules (via CDER). The number of biological entities has been impressive, too (see CBER’s website).

Same with your slide showing only 1996–2003 date range… There have been significant shifts in the industry since the focus of the story that fits your narrative. Why, oh why, Shiva did you stop at 2003 when there are another 16+ years worth of data?

We are becoming more acutely aware of how complex the human body is and as the hurdles of safety and efficacy increase, the expected increases in costs and lag-times to produce safe and effective therapies increase (discussed below).

You are likely hiding facts that don’t match your story? Seems so because you then switch to more aggressive terminology: “Even the corrupt FDA…”. What is this all about? What data do you have that the FDA is ‘corrupt’? It has created (rightly so) massive hurdles for a NME (small molecule or biological) to be approved. For decades (post-Vioxx era, if you will), safety is seen as PRIMARY, and efficacy secondary. Medications that are deemed too unsafe are pulled from the market.

Doesn’t sound ‘corrupt’ to me.

More amusingly or ironically is that Cytosolve’s own website (for now at least as I’m sure it might be pulled if you or your scientific advisory board members read this blog), with YOU at the helm, touts that it has worked WITH the FDA in the past.

Cytosolve working with an entity it considers corrupt. Fascinating.

Politics (and politicians and business people?), they say, make strange bedfellows.

Continuing on with strange but not unexpected bedfellows, how about Cytosolve’s work with Alnylam? Some people have rather large issues with Alnylam charging $570,000, yes you read this correctly, over half a MILLION DOLLARS, for Givlaari. Doesn’t Alynalm’s work and business model match the same ‘big pharma’ that you’ve wonderfully attacked?

Plus, what ever happened to the heredity angioedema (HAE) work that Alnylam was working on that Cytosolve was helping them with? Shouldn’t there be a medication on the market by now based on your approach?

Oh, Alnylam’s HAE work isn’t even on their website any more because they presumably dropped the studies?

Sad that Alnylam had to pull revusiran’s phase 3 trials due to (gulp) toxicity. You’d think they’d care more about patient safety than anything — how could they let the investigational medicine get so far without seeing the toxic potential?

Finally, I’d be very curious to know if you have any continuing relationship with Alnylam (even a financial investment?) as they are trying to contribute to, and I’m sure capitalize on, the current pandemic?

Speaking of toxicity, competing interests (helping treat disease versus earning money) and educating the masses, I find it interesting and enlightening that complications due to aspirin use kill greater than 3,000 people annually, but it isn’t pulled from the market. The number is likely an underrepresentation of how many people have really been harmed but let’s run with that number to do a mental calculation. 3,000 people annually X 120 years of use = 360,000 people. This contrasts with the estimated number of 60,000 who might have had catastrophic reactions to Vioxx (tragic as these numbers might be). The annual deaths of ‘natural’ product use is not known, but based on the number of people who use them times the number of years of use suggest this is not insignificant.

So why, Dr. Politician-to-be, might aspirin and other products, ‘natural’ or not, remain on the market?

No one to sue who, like Merck, could (rightfully?) pay restitution.

[It is critical to remember at this point that just because something is ‘natural’ does not mean it is free of liability. The body doesn’t care the source of a toxin. It simply cares if something will help it or hurt it.]

This diversion of ‘facts’ is perhaps why you try to wow us by irrelevant facts? “We have the same number of genes as a worm” is almost correct (19,00ish genes compared with 20,000ish genes is close but we don’t actually know the ‘real’ number) but wildly irrelevant to the conversation. Gene number is only ONE aspect of complexity so we and worms should be nearly identical because we have the same number of genes in your line of thinking? We’re not. The number of expressed genes, the splice variants, post-translational modifications, the relevant expression of anti-codon products and so-called ‘pseudo genes’ and SO many more parts vary wildly between individual humans. What was your point about worms and genes?

Oh, perhaps it is because you want to make a statement about complexity and how difficult it is to develop any medications based on individual variation, let alone population-wide ones?

You are a self-proclaimed leader in systems biology — and you are very knowledgeable, no doubt about that — yet for you to indirectly suggest that pharmaceutical companies are not, nor have not, been interested in systems biology, let alone the microbiome and the interplay between medicines, nutrition, and things like mindfulness, is an outright offense to my entire career.

“They (big pharma) don’t want to talk about that (Vitamin C, A, D having health benefits)…” and “… MDs (doctors)… always want a drug…” is absolutely offensive and patently a lie.

This is where I choose to stop the video and decided that if I were in the state and had voting rights, I’d choose to exercise it for someone else.

I’d choose the someone less emotional, more rational and adhering to their science-based roots option.

This writing is my sincere attempt, though, to not let the growth opportunity for you, for me, and potentially for everyone in Mass or elsewhere. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’d appreciate hearing the rest of the stories that might have been left out in the attempt at brevity and focus.

I do not doubt your intelligence or experience, but your comments seem quite biased, opinionated, frustrated, jaded and insecure as a start.

I love that you are looking at health holistically — as I am and as my biased opinion loves to talk about.

I am clearly biased — toward truth and that means telling a complete story, not partial truths, and not in a language that demonizes anyone. We can call ‘spades, spades’ when we see them, as well as stand in our uncertainty. Both are necessary for more rapid growth.

If possible I’d love to continue the video as I’m keen to increase my knowledge about the immune system, especially as a pharmacologist. Clearly we do not fully understand how the immune system works and some of the treatments of the past had problems but NOT because of ‘evil’ intentions. We were simply acting on our level of understanding at the time. We still do. And when I say ‘we,’ I include ‘you’ in this statement, Dr Ayyadurai. We, collectively are slowly becoming more aware of our ignorance and better able to act rationally.

That is, when we allow rationality to drive our actions. A state I believe you are not currently in.

Thank you all for the chance to express my thoughts. I’m not trying to convince anyone of any particular thing or point, but to point out my thoughts and how important objectivity is. I certainly do not want this to turn into a ‘discussion’, especially electronically, as all electronic means fall short as a way of having a nice social discussion?

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Dr. Gary Redfeather (Keil)

Neuroscientist, chronic pain specialist, mental/physical resiliency training professional, ultramarathoner & triathlete, philosopher, theosopher and chocoholic.