Friday, April 6, 2012

Help Me, Interwebz! You're My Only Hope!

Something is coming. I've heard strange noises coming from the cemetery I pass every day. People in the neighborhood seem more tense; they glance around furtively, spending as little time as possible outside, and when they do, they run. There used to be birds, too. It has become so very, very quiet. And my area isn't the only one. It seems to be spreading, heading north. If my calculations are correct, it looks like whatever this is will converge on Amesbury, MA in just a few weeks.

A zombie apocalypse is coming. The dead will rise, forcing people to run for their lives. On May 5, 2012, the Amesbury Sports Park will be transformed into a 5K obstacle course...with zombies! Runners will need to make it past twelve natural and man-made obstacles, all while trying to avoid being eaten. And I am going to be among them. The runners, that is, not the zombies. At least, I'm going to try to not become a zombie.

But I need your help. "How?" you ask? Read on.

What Do I Need Help With?

Most of the people running the 5K are probably just doing it for fun or to test their mettle. That's what first attracted me to it, but as I got to thinking about how zombies procreate by infecting others, it seemed like a good opportunity to raise money for infectious disease research. So that's what I'm doing.

I've suggested that people support research before, but this time I'm making a more formal appeal. My goal is to raise $3,000 for the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) at Massachusetts General Hospital. Specifically, there are two projects for which I am trying to raise money.

The Research

The VIC is researching the use of a laser as a vaccine adjuvant. Basically, adjuvants allow vaccines to use fewer antigens by increasing the body's immune response. In the U.S., we use aluminum salts (e.g., aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate, and aluminum potassium sulfate) as adjuvants. Because there are some individuals who question the safety of these adjuvants (largely based on false information), the laser adjuvant may induce a similar boosted immune response without the concerns associated with aluminum. It also has the potential to reduce even the current minor side effects associated with aluminum adjuvants, like local soreness and swelling. The VIC researchers have completed animal studies and are ready to move on to human trials. Although the initial research focuses on influenza and hepatitis B vaccines, there is potential for this technology to be applied to a much wider range of vaccines. In the end, this could hopefully make for more effective and safer vaccines, as well as improve overall immunization rates among those worried about ingredients like aluminum.

The other project that caught my attention is the VIC's work on a more effective cholera vaccine. Cholera is a bacterial diarrheal illness that is a major public health concern in regions with inadequate sanitation and where natural disasters severely damage the infrastructure. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for example, led to a major cholera epidemic, sickening over 470,000 people and killing over 6,600. The current vaccines are only about 25%-50% effective at preventing illness. Developing a more effective vaccine is also unlikely to generate significant profits for manufacturers, so there is little impetus on the part of industry to invest in improving the vaccine. A better vaccine, like the one the VIC is developing, could have a significant, positive outcome for millions living in regions plagued by cholera. This is something that those of us living in the U.S. don't need to worry about, so I think it's that much more important that we help others who are less fortunate.

How Can You Help?

You can be a part of this innovative research by supporting my flight through the zombie-infested wilderness of Amesbury by going to this page and making a donation. If you would rather make a gift by mail, make your check payable to:
Massachusetts General Hospital
Development Office
165 Cambridge Street, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114
Make sure to put "Todd's Zombie Run" in the memo line or in a note with your donation. All gifts will go to support these two projects and are 100% tax deductible.

Please help me make (or exceed) my goal and make a gift today. Please also share this with your friends and relatives, on Twitter and Facebook. Let's work together to help improve our world and our struggle against infectious diseases.

I can't do this alone. Help me, interwebz. You're my only hope.

[Edited to Add: If you have made a donation or are considering doing so, see if your company matches charitable donations. That way, your gift can have twice the impact!]


  1. Can't you just ask your Big Pharma overlords for the cash? I'm sure that much money is nothing for them. :-p

  2. Good luck. Remember your Cardio and to Limber Up before the Zombie run.

  3. Thanks for the support and for spreading the word! I'm hoping to raise a decent chunk o' change for these projects.


    Thanks for the advice. I will definitely remember rule #1 when dealing with zombies.


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