Tuesday, July 27, 2010

InvestinME DVD - Pia and Richard Simpson

It has been two months now since the May 2010 InvestinME conference. The receipt of the DVD makes me want to reflect on this organization InvestinME that you can read about here and the guiding lights of this organization Pia and Richard Simpson. These people deliver the goods and they should be more celebrated for bringing cohesion and clarity to the research field of ME/CFS.

Today I received my copy of the DVD from the May 2010 London ME/CFS conference. Even though I attended this annual conference (for the fourth time) I was excited to receive the DVD - and receiving it reminded me how very exciting this conference is - and I want to thank again Richard and Pia Simpson's selfless efforts for bringing us this information. I watched with fascination the round table discussion of the speakers that took place the afternoon before the conference. This year's speakers - John Chia, Brigitte Huber, Judy Mikovits, Annette Whittemore, Paul Cheney, Leonard Jason, Jonathan Kerr and Nancy Klimas - gathered for an hour and a half and discussed pertinent issues. The conversation was moderated by Malcolm Hooper. Dr. Hooper is excellent at guiding a group conversation and/or a series of lectures. His mild mannered yet focused personality brings a collective sense of harmony. He is also not devoid of an excellent sense of humor, a quality that I insist on in a "real person". (If one were convinced that moderating a lecture series is not a particular and delicate skill, one only need to have attended this conference several years ago when a quickly forgotten personality did this job in a quite poor fashion). Yes I like Dr. Malcolm Hooper.

All of these people are becoming like old friends to me - and my admiration increases on seeing them in action in a group conversation. I have less of a kindly feeling about Dr. Huber, but, as others suggest, this might just be me. Others have suggested that she is another point of view - so we will just leave it at that. I will try to restrain myself from revealing further information about Huber that indicates more clearly why she is unwelcome in the large and diverse (and expanding) group that secures my admiration.

Jonathan Kerr was missing in this group conversation, Cheney came late, and Huber left early.

Of course one could piece together some of the conversation's content from the next day's public lectures (and I did), but there is nothing like an extemporaneous give and take by very sharp and articulate people. I recommend trying to get ahold of a copy of this DVD and watching the round table discussion particularly. It is quite revealing and one can get a very quick sense of the personalities and issues involved.

This fellow Leonard Jason has done so much good in insisting on clarifying the language surrounding ME/CFS. His studies, which are carried on by "his group" (himself and a few graduate students) at DePaul University are not medical studies as such but more language studies - and the defining of terms. Dr. Jason is less interested in agreement, more interested in clarity.

In viewing this round table, it seemed to me that Cheney, Klimas, Jason, Chia, and Mikovits were all talking about the same subject. Their opinions of course differ but there is a willingness to listen to each other and to acknowledge the existence of the others. With Huber, it was slightly different. It is obvious that she has no clue about this illness or the patients who suffer from it. Whether this is necessary for scientific research, who knows? - but it certainly must have some bearing on who one includes in a particular study. Huber was invited to this conference because of her interest in an endogenous retrovirus HERV-K18 and its association with ME/CFS. My feeling, for what it is worth, is that it was a mistake to invite Huber, and that she brought nothing of use beyond being a foil for Mikovits. This in itself proved to be exciting, but I am not sure how much it moved the situation along. In this roundtable Huber mentioned more than once her idea that Mikovits' samples were contaminated. This, in itself, took her out of the conversation. I think Huber could use a few counseling sessions with Dr. Jason.

Many other interesting subjects were discussed in this forum. Naturally XMRV was the underlying theme. Another long discussion focused on biomarkers. Many ideas were generated. Among other things Cheney advanced his belief that "oxygen toxicity" was a foolproof biomarker - and that testing could easily be done in any cardiologist's office. At the moment no one else has picked up on this, but I have a strong hunch that this is about to change.

In watching this DVD, try to remember that InvestinME is not a large monolithic entity with tons of money. This fly by night organization patches together funding from various sources. This conference, this DVD exchange of information, is brought to us by the efforts of a very few generous souls. It is important to remember this - that most efforts in ME/CFS are philanthropic and visionary efforts by a very few individuals, working alone and working very hard. We all benefit from these efforts. It is difficult to express enough thanks to these people.

All of this, the conference, the roundtable, the DVD, is brought to you by InvestinME. This conference is the brainchild of Richard and Pia Simpson. The Simpsons have two female children with ME/CFS. They have taken it upon themselves to do what many of us wish that we could do. They do not stand around wringing their hands. They take on the problem directly, and in a country where this illness officially does not exist. The Simpsons have developed a means where they could consolidate the most articulate and serious research. Not enough credit is given to them.

In viewing this DVD I am reminded of my very great admiration for this couple and their most successful efforts to bring researchers and clinicians together. Nothing else is like this conference.

Over the years I have heard many fine physicians and researchers give presentations: Kenny de Meirleir, Jonathan Kerr, Sarah Myhill, Garth Nicholson, Dan Peterson, A. Martin Lerner, John Chia (three times), Leonard Jason (several times), Byron Hyde, and various researchers from Norway, Sweden and the UK. For the last few years the conference has leaned heavily on US researchers and clinicians, indicating a sense that this is where research is consolidating. This conference goes a very long way towards establishing the serious nature of the illness and demolishing the distinction between the American brand of CFS and the UK ME. This conference assumes and sanctions the older term of ME - no bullshit here.

This DVD lecture series is loaded with excellent lectures. I would recommend especially Paul Cheney (too short), John Chia, Mikovits and Leonard Jason.

Putting together this one day speaker panel is difficult, especially since decisions have to be made months ahead. It was great to see Cheney in the UK and I would like to see him come back for another year and be given more time to speak. Anything from the WPI and their growing affiliates is okay with me. If I were going to make one suggestion it would be to invite Dr. Joe Brewer. He is noticeably missing from conferences in general and yet he (along with Montoya) is best poised for near-term treatment. Dr. Jose Montoya would be another person worth including. I also like Dr. Dale Guyer, but he is on the periphery of the ME/CFS field.

The one day format of this conference is hard-hitting and intense. It is a long day. For the speakers and others concerned individuals the communication occurs on the day before the conference both with the round table and a dinner. The speakers are put up in the same hotel. In this way, communication amongst the participants and others is encouraged. I myself have observed numerous serious conversations going on in the hotel and at the conference during breaks and lunch. It is a great idea to get these people together and have an informal go at each other. InvestinME has done a great service in facilitating such conversations.

This conference is quite different than the conference in the US. In the first place the US conference is every two years, which is not often enough Additionally the US conference tries to covers too much ground, presents too many lectures, including a great deal of academic cannon fodder. The conference participant has to wade through a tremendous amount of crap without any clarification, and this goes on for four days. The Simpsons at InvestinME (probably because they are not a committee and do not have competing interests) have the courage to define the program, and to present something that is hard-hitting, up to the minute and practical. With a little more money and a little more help, maybe they can expand their efforts to having a conference every six months. Vast amounts of money would have to flow in their direction and the opposite is more likely. For the moment, check out this DVD and consider what these two individuals have brought to us for our betterment. (And it is worth noticing that they do not charge you $300 for this DVD.)

Lest I overlook someone in this fine organization I want to include a link to other organizers and contributors and congratulate them all on their fine work.

It is worth remembering that InvestinME came to the rescue after Jonathan Kerr blew a tire on his XMRV study, pledging to work in cooperation with the WPI on XMRV in UK patients, Funded by the modest pledges of this organization, a study was proposed to look for XMRV using the methods of the WPI. InvestinME clearly understands the legitimate ME/CFS patient population and we can expect some decent results from this study. InvestinME announced this support in March and three months is an adequate time for a study to be completed. The Patient Advocate looks forward to these results, but wonders why patient-driven research is necessary in this situation.


  1. Thanks for mentioning this. I ordered a copy of the InvestInMe conference dvd. About $22 with shipping to the US.

  2. Thank you for offering your perspective, Chris. We appreciate your willingness to criticize scientists who attack Dr. Mikovits, the WPI, and XMRV research.

    Another of our "advocates", Cort Johnson, has defended Bill Reeves, the Reeves Definition, Suzanne Unger, and vicious blogger "ERV" so many times that I've begun to wonder whose side he's on.

    It's clear from your posts over the years that you're on the patients' side. The patient for whom you advocate is lucky to have you. :)

  3. "Hard hitting, up to the minute, and practical," that's how you describe the InvestinME Conference, but it also describes your blog. Your honesty and vivid descriptions are treasures for those of us who are unable to attend the conferences ourselves. Thank you for sharing, Patient Advocate.

    Patricia Carter