On Saturday, June 1, the nation lowered its flags to half-staff honoring the victims of the tragic mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia on May 31. We grieve, yet again, the absolute senseless loss of life and injury due to gun violence. We must push to lift what amounts to a federal ban to fund research into this very real public health crisis, and reverse the insanity of firearms access that is so specific and harmful to our society.
From frustration and anger, the pendulum of life swings to the other end of the spectrum. Last month, Mylo and I beamed as our daughter graduated from nursing school. We were proud and joyous as could be, and there was a lot of love in the auditorium that day. It reminded me of a recent New York Times op-ed by David Brooks that really spoke a truth, and that I want to share with you: The Difference Between Happiness and Joy.
Another event that evokes great feelings for many is Pride Month. In this edition of Expresso, Klint Jaramillo, director of the LGBT Resource Center at UCSF, pays tribute to the history of the Stonewall riots, the genesis of Pride marches.
We also can experience a deep, deep gratitude to be among the amazing, creative forces that exist at UCSF. This month, I am shining a spotlight on the Biohub, the remarkable collaboration funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative that brings together all sorts of brilliant minds from UCSF, UC Berkeley, and Stanford.
Also, in the wake of ever-contentious First Amendment gatherings, I am proud to write about the way our campus community has rallied to make sure that free speech rights are exercised safely, legally, and without impeding our day-to-day activities or authentic expression.
This month’s titles are:
- Stonewall50: Showing up for your authentic self
- CZ Biohub: Passing the deletion test
- Freedom to Speak: Time, place, and manner
But first, have you heard about the UCSF Memorial to The Regents on Fossil Fuel Divestment? Academic Senate faculty at nine of the ten UC campuses have voted in favor of urging The Regents to divest from the 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies with the greatest carbon reserves. Academic Senate members will receive an email with instructions for voting which will begin June 1 and run for two weeks. While adjunct faculty, HS Clinical Series, and students are not eligible to vote on the Memorial, you can still voice your support via an online petition at Fossil-Free UC.
As you read on, be sure to check my monthly tip below – I’m launching a new, occasional item: the Expresso Poll! Please let me know your thoughts, and anything else you would like covered in Expresso, by writing to me at [email protected].
Enjoy the start to your summer,
Stonewall50: Showing up for your authentic self
On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, as had happened before too many times in too many similar establishments. This time, however, the response was different: People rioted for four days.
Klint Jaramillo, director of UCSF’s LGBT Resource Center, says the Stonewall uprising is credited with sparking the modern LGBT rights movement and represents a critical milestone towards giving people “the ability to fully embrace who they are, regardless of what society was forcing them to be and, in a way, embrace their true authentic selves.”
The year after Stonewall, New York City saw its first Gay Pride march, which blossomed into Pride events all over the world, and now even attracts corporate sponsorships.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, which gives an added importance to this year’s Pride Parade, scheduled in San Francisco for Sunday, June 30.
“When we go back to the history of Stonewall,” Klint says, “I am reminded that it’s our responsibility to honor our elders for the way they fought for us to be here and for me to be queer, for me to be able to live in an open and honest society that would accept me in my true, authentic self.” UCSF has played a part in that history, most notably on the front lines of the fight against AIDS starting in the 1980s, another key moment that galvanized LGBT people to political action. And since 1987, UCSF has helped raise more than $90 million for HIV programs and services through AIDS Walk San Francisco, and a UCSF contingent will march again on Sunday, July 14.
LGBT people have come a long way, but we all know the work is far from over. Klint explains, “There’s still a lot that needs to be done for queer liberation and for queer acceptance. I'm looking at the ways in which we need to remain vigilant as well as celebrate progress.” Last year, more than 300 people from UCSF marched down Market Street in San Francisco’s Pride Parade, and the organizers are hoping for an even bigger turnout this year.
Our LGBT Resource Center will host several events this month, including a special exhibition at the Parnassus library to tell the story of Stonewall, a documentary screening about unsung Stonewall leaders Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, a panel of staff and alumni LGBT activists, our contingent at the Pride Parade, and more. Learn more on the Stonewall50 website launched especially for this month.
“I want to encourage folks to join us this year,” Klint adds. “Now more than ever, our allies really need to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community. My message for our allies is to show up. And showing up can take many forms. You can show up to one of our events, you can donate to LGBT community organizations, you can come to a training, you can engage with the LGBT Resource Center, you can come to the Pride Parade and walk with us.”
Klint hopes that someday the UCSF LGBT Resource Center will become a thing of the past. “My hope is that in the future my queer siblings won’t have to come to a resource center because they’re being harassed or discriminated against,” he says. “That they’re able to live freely and honestly as their authentic selves.”
As an ally, I share that hope and will show up to make it a reality.
CZ Biohub: Passing the deletion test
What would you do with $600 million? How about cure, prevent, or manage all diseases during our children’s lifetimes? That’s what the ambitious and audacious team at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub intends to do.
Launched in 2016 with $600 million from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan (pediatrician and proud UCSF School of Medicine alumna!), the Biohub brings together some of the leading scientists, technologists, and other experts from UCSF, UC Berkeley, and Stanford to break down traditional barriers and solve some of the most intractable problems we’ve faced for years.
“The Biohub was founded with the mission of developing the tools and technologies to understand the fundamentals underlying disease with an eye towards diagnostics and therapeutics,” says UCSF’s Joe DeRisi, co-president of the Biohub (along with Stanford’s Stephen Quake). Basically, it’s a ten-year experiment to see if synergies could be formed by bringing together the three universities in ways that would have otherwise not happened.
And, how does that happen? You pass a “deletion test.”
What if the Biohub didn’t exist? Would the projects that are being done there now have happened anyway? If the answer is yes and the research landscape wouldn't have been any different, then the Biohub is not really doing its job – so its leaders will continue conducting rigorous analysis to make sure it’s accelerating progress and making a fundamental difference. The anecdotal evidence is already revealing groundbreaking, successful efforts based on three guiding principles: people, platforms, and projects.
People: The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub now has about 100 investigators, with faculty appointments at one of the three universities (including the Gladstone Institutes), who are given up to $1.5 million over five years to do their most bold, innovative, and risky work.
Investigators apply for the funding and are not auto-renewed, although they can apply again in five years. After the initial 47 were chosen, the Biohub launched an inter-institutional award program, giving grants to teams of PIs. There must be at least one PI from each of the campuses on a joint project, so collaboration is a core requirement.
The Biohub isn't limited to the biomedical sciences. Joe describes it like this: “We have people in electrical power generation and transmission. We have physicists and mathematicians, people from neuroscience, clinical science, epidemiology, hardcore math and data science, you name it. And so this highly interdisciplinary team gets to hear about your science, and you have to be in front of them presenting and defending that as well. And that also alerts people to new ideas and new things that are going on. It can create whole new collaborations that otherwise would very likely not have happened.”
Platforms: Unlike a core facility, the Biohub doesn’t take commercial equipment and share it. Instead, it takes something like microscopy or nanoscale machines, for example, and asks its investigators: “What are the capabilities you'd like to have that aren’t available on the market today? Let’s build the scopes that don't yet exist, and provide new capability and new imaging modalities that you just can't buy off the shelf.”
“That's a very important thing to us,” Joe says. “It's meant to build and deploy new technologies, and then those technologies hopefully are adopted and used by the different community members throughout the three institutions.” And beyond: The Biohub’s default is to build everything open source, so anyone can copy or commercialize its innovations.
Platforms include advanced imaging, computational microscopy, genomics and genome engineering, data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, physical engineering – including mechanical, electrical, fluidic, and optic engineering – and more.
Projects: The Biohub has two major projects under way at the moment: Cell Atlas and Infectious Disease. The Cell Atlas aims to map every cell in the human body, a massive undertaking and an essential key to unlock the causes of many diseases. In Infectious Disease, scientists and engineers will work globally on diagnostic tests, new drugs, vaccines, and rapid response.
People were working on these projects before the Biohub, but not with the same scale or ability to realize the goals. On infectious diseases, for instance, Biohub investigators are collaborating with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on a computational cloud-based platform for pathogen identification. The goal? To deploy it worldwide.
This platform, known as IDseq, could not have been taken on in a single academic lab setting. The Biohub enables its researchers to scale each project to a much greater degree, and therefore its impact will be exponentially greater.
These heady initiatives started with Chan and Zuckerberg, who Joe says saw “a need to overcome the unnatural obstacles that exist between UCSF, Berkeley, and Stanford. We should all be able to work together on an easy, frictionless playing field, but that's not reality. But could it be reality if there was some sort of institute in the middle … that greased the wheel and made it happen?”
Joe recalls blue-sky sessions with Steve Quake about the vision of the Biohub. After years of work, the finished project is remarkably close to what they imagined. And there’s one more cool thing about the Biohub: The dollars the investigators get are totally discretionary. “If an investigator says, ‘Hey, my science would be better if I had three extra hours of after-school care for my kid,’ they should be able to use the money to pay for after-school care.”
You certainly can’t do that on a typical research grant! I’m working with Joe to see if we can expand that notion. See what $600 million can do?
Freedom to Speak: Time, place, and manner
Free and open expression is a constitutional right and a particularly important part of a rich educational experience. But it’s more complicated than that, and in the past few years, things have changed quite a bit.
Do you remember UC Berkeley in 2017, where we saw sometimes-violent protests unfold? As a result, the UC Office of the President asked each campus to update its free speech policies.
UCSF has long had a free speech policy, and now we’ve got a new interim one. It was posted online in February, and while we are still seeking and considering comments, we intend to make the policy formal when the new academic year begins in September. Students were invited to provide feedback at an open meeting of the Graduate and Professional Student Association in May.
Some of the key elements include spelling out time, place, and manner restrictions to make sure that free speech rights are exercised safely, legally, and without impeding University operations or disrupting patient care. The policy prohibits individuals from disturbing the peace, for example by being too loud, and they may not impede entrances or exits, or endanger anyone’s safety.
The policy distinguishes between types of space (see interim policy, page 3). “Because we’re a public institution, our neighbors can come to UCSF’s public grounds at any time and express themselves without notice,” says Clare Shinnerl, senior associate vice chancellor of Campus Life Services and co-author of the interim policy. If members of the public want to use our “limited-public grounds,” they must request use of that space in advance and according to the procedures in the policy.
The policy does not apply to “University business,” such as a professor’s lecture, with the exception being if the activity could incite attendee behavior that might impede public safety, cause property damage, or disrupt University operations. If someone thinks that their talk might trigger the policy, there’s a form to fill out (Attachment B in the policy) that will help the campus determine if there’s a need for providing security for the event. It’s important to note that the policy and any review are conducted in a viewpoint neutral manner. “We treat every request the same, regardless of viewpoint,” Clare adds.
Another exception to note: City streets that cut through our campus are generally the responsibility of the city, not UCSF, and as such, are subject to applicable municipal ordinances with which free speech participants must comply.
Free speech is a basic fundamental right. I urge you to read the proposed policy changes and exercise your right to have your voice heard. If you have any questions about what you can say politically as individuals versus as representatives of the university, you can refer to UCSF Advocates and the Expresso story “Political Advocacy: UC do’s and don’ts.”
Dan’s Tip of the Month
Recently, I was asked to name the one place on the planet that most fills me with awe. I had to insist on splitting the answer into two categories: one created by nature and the other created by humans:
- Yosemite Valley, a place of stunning beauty and grandeur that feels like my “spiritual home,” reminding me of how our lives are but a flicker in time.
- The Taj Mahal, a breathtaking architectural wonder that rises on the banks of the Yamuna River in India as a testimonial to the existence of undying love.
No matter where I go, being a mindful global citizen and treading lightly as I travel is important. So, where on the planet would you recommend we lightly tread? Take this quick, inaugural Expresso Poll, and we will publish a “UCSF Bucket List” next month.