Tribute to Ted Harada, pioneering stem cell trial participant and ALS advocate

Ted Harada FamilyIt takes a great deal of courage to participate in a clinical trial, patients who make that choice are heroes in my book and one such hero with stem cells was Ted Harada who had ALS. Sadly, Ted passed away from a brain tumor called glioblastoma last month.

When enrolling in a trial, you just never know if it will be beneficial or even be safe, and this is especially true of early phase clinical trials. As a result, it takes guts to be a trial participant and Ted was happy to do so.

I had the honor of meeting and getting to know Ted over the past several years. We even brought Ted out to be a speaker at our annual stem cell ethics symposium here at UC Davis a couple of years back along with my friend and amazing HD advocate Judy Roberson (see pic below of us three).

I first got to know Ted because he was a clinical trial participant in a stem cell study for ALS run by the company Neuralstem. I interviewed him for my blog (two parts here and here) and met up with Ted at meetings.

Ted brought a fresh perspective on the tough question of how to find the sweet spot of regulatory oversight of investigational stem cell therapies. Ted and I didn’t entirely see eye-to-eye on that question, but disagreeing in a mutually respectful way is okay. There is a lot we can learn from each other.  Ted and I agreed on many things too including the importance of patients participating in the dialogue. He was a tireless advocate for ALS research.

Stem cell ethics meeting

Ted, Me, and Judy

I thought of Ted as a friend and I admired him greatly. He will be missed so much. His family meant the world to him. See a picture of Ted that sent me of him with his wonderful family above.

Ted approached all that life threw at him, whether it was ALS or a brain tumor, with a characteristic passion, sense of humor and classiness. I don’t recall anyone dealing with adversity as well as Ted did and I never heard him say anything like, “why me”. Instead there was always kindness and grace.

During his battle with the brain tumor this year, he gave frequent updates on various things he was going through and how he was doing and there was more often than not evidence of Ted’s faith and sometimes his great sense of humor in those updates.

My condolences go out to his family and many friends. We all miss you, Ted. Your extraordinary positive impact continues.

You can read Ted’s obituary and some moving tributes to him here.