4 May 2020

Not So Fast

Disappointment is part of the human experience. We all have them and learn to adapt and live with reality. Sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s merely annoying.

One story from Israel last year fits both scenarios, and a recent one is being watched closely, in light of the Coronavirus weirdness sweeping the globe.

One year ago, an Israeli biotech company fairly promised a sweeping cancer cure within the year. From a Forbes article:

“At the end of January last year, the internet was awash with a flurry of viral news stories promising the almost-impossible. Cancer was going to be cured. Within just one year, by a tiny Israeli biotechnology company. A true fairy tale of miracle-like proportions that was going to change the world. So, one year on, is cancer cured?


“It would appear that it was all a PR stunt or perhaps (to be exceptionally kind) just blown out of proportion. After the original, uncritical article in the Jerusalem Post, other articles copying the unchecked information spread like wildfire on social media. As scientists, researchers, doctors, cancer organizations and a handful of reputable journalists, including myself, scrambled to douse the flames, a runaway train of shares, posts and retweets created a mushroom cloud of misinformation, perfectly analyzed here by HealthFeedback.org.”

Honestly and obviously, this story is worse because it’s from Israel. We all love the Jewish state and recognize that the failings of one boastful tech company don’t impugn the character of a miraculous nation. But this wasn’t good.

Cancer patients around the world told their oncologists that they were suspending treatments and heading to Israel “to be cured.”

Didn’t happen.

I contacted an Israeli journalist friend about this story and was told that there could be a variety of reasons for the announcement: hoped-for funding coming through being a main possibility. Here is the “ouch” ending to the Forbes article:

Could they still do it? As a scientist who must accept nuance and probabilities in almost anything – yes, if you subscribe to the way of thinking that ‘nothing is impossible.’ Would I bet on it? No, not a single cent. Being struck by lightning, winning the lottery and being struck by meteorites are all things that do happen to people, albeit rarely. I’d rate the chances that AEBi have the universal cure for cancer smaller than being struck by lightning whilst simultaneously being hit by a meteorite, seconds after finding out you’ve won the lottery.”


Now onto a new story, this one earlier in this month.

Coronavirus vaccine? From the Jerusalem Post (the same publication that touted the cancer cure):

“’All we need to do is adjust the system to the new sequence,’ he said. ‘We are in the middle of this process, and hopefully in a few weeks we will have the vaccine in our hands. Yes, in a few weeks, if it all works, we would have a vaccine to prevent coronavirus.

“’Congratulations to MIGAL [The Galilee Research Institute] on this exciting breakthrough,’ Akunis said. ‘I am confident there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,’ Akunis said, referring to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.’”

Supposedly, they plan to have this vaccine ready for clinical trials within a month, which means that by the time you read this, only a few more days.

Companies and researchers around the world are racing to find a vaccine. Keep in mind, it’s a “whole other” discussion about the origins of this flu strain—not to mention the motivations and agendas of unelected bureaucrats and Media types—and we don’t know yet how this will play out.

In the meantime, let’s remember not to get carried away with miraculous pronouncements maybe just because they come from a country we love. Let’s wait and see.

I’m talking to myself first and foremost.