The great thing about podcasts is the gems that turn up unexpectedly in the listening queue. The Freakaonmics podcast on “The Economist’s Guide to Parenting” was one of those for me and not only did I laugh a lot I learnt a lot.
A round table of economists who despite having the insight of data and the ability to analyse that data are still unable to behave rationally when raising their own children.
The data suggests that most of parenting has little impact on the eventual outcome – with the exception of personal habits (smoking and drinking for instance) and personal behavior (how you treat other people for example)
You see that children are picking up their parents’ smoking and drinking habits with a very high degree of correlation, and it’s the same with the adoptees and the non-adoptees, they really pick up their parents’ habits, those type of habits explicitly. Another thing that’s undoubtedly contagious is that behavior of how you interact, how you treat other people, how you treat employees at a restaurant, or a retail store or something. I think those things are probably highly contagious as well.
Nurturing is the most important behavior. But when it comes to their future parents have a very limited effect in the early years and by the time the child reaches 27 the impact has almost disappeared. In an interesting study of Korean War orphan adoptions:
And yet, the finding of the study by Bruce Sacerdote was that the kids raised by the very poorest families grew up to have the same income as the kids raised by the very richest families. It’s striking that it’s the kind of thing that you would think of as being more about upbringing broadly defined than a lot of other traits. So it could be that it’s actual upbringing where your parents instill the value of a dollar and hard work in you. Or it could be something more like nepotism where because you get raised by the right kind of parents you get good connections, they actually make a phone call for you. And yet, actually the very best studies of the nature and nurture of income find that parents do have a moderate effect on your early income when you’re in your twenties, but basically zero for the rest of your life
So the advice is:
- Chill out
- Love your kids
- Don’t worry
As the world’s population lives longer than ever, if we don’t succumb to heart disease, strokes or accidents, it is more likely that cancer will get us one way or another. Cancer is tough to fight, as the body learns how to outsmart medical approaches that often kill normal cells while targeting the malignant ones.
In a breakthrough development, the Israeli company Vaxil BioTherapeutics has formulated a therapeutic cancer vaccine, now in clinical trials at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. If all goes well, the vaccine could be available about six years down the road, to administer on a regular basis not only to help treat cancer but in order to keep the disease from recurring.
The vaccine is being tested against a type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. If the substance works as hoped — and it looks like all arrows are pointing that way — its platform technology VaxHit could be applied to 90 percent of all known cancers, including prostate and breast cancer, solid and non-solid tumors.
“In cancer, the body knows something is not quite right but the immune system doesn’t know how to protect itself against the tumor like it does against an infection or virus. This is because cancer cells are the body’s own cells gone wrong,” says Julian Levy, the company’s CFO. “Coupled with that, a cancer patient has a depressed immune system, caused both by the illness and by the treatment.”
The trick is to activate a compromised immune system to mobilize against the threat.
A vaccine that works like a drug
A traditional vaccine helps the body’s immune system fend off foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses, and is administered to people who have not yet had the ailment. Therapeutic vaccines, like the one Vaxil has developed, are given to sick people, and work more like a drug.
Vaxil’s lead product, ImMucin, activates the immune system by “training” T-cells –– the immune cells that protect the body by searching out and destroying cells that display a specific molecule (or marker) called MUC1. MUC1 is typically found only on cancer cells and not on healthy cells. The T-cells don’t attack any cells without MUC1, meaning there are no side effects unlike traditional cancer treatments. More than 90% of different cancers have MUC1 on their cells, which indicates the potential for this vaccine.
“It’s a really big thing,” says Levy, a biotechnology entrepreneur who was formerly CEO for Biokine Therapeutics. “If you give chemo, apart from the really nasty side effects, what often happens is that cancer becomes immune [to it]. The tumor likes to mutate and develops an ability to hide from the treatment. Our vaccines are also designed to overcome that problem.”
For cancers in an advanced stage, treatments like chemo or surgery to remove a large tumor will still be needed, but if the cancer can be brought down to scale, the body is then able to deal with it, Levy explains. ImMucin is foreseen as a long-term strategy — a shot every few months, with no side effects — to stop the cancer from reoccurring after initial treatments, by ensuring that the patient’s own immune system keeps it under control.
In parallel, the company is also working on a vaccine that treats tuberculosis, a disease that’s increasing worldwide, including in the developed world, and for which the current vaccine is often ineffective and treatment is problematic.
Based in Ness Ziona, Vaxil was founded in 2006 by Dr. Lior Carmon, a biotechnology entrepreneur with a doctorate in immunology from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. In June, Vaxil signed a memorandum of understanding to merge its activities into Sheldonco, a company traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.