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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Michael J. Fox performing Johnny B. Goode at his foundation's annual gala. Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Image

Last night I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael J. Fox and Debi Brooks, a former Goldman Sachs banker and co-founder of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, at a private J.P. Morgan event in California.

Bottom line: It was intensely inspiring, no matter how cliche that may sound nor how jaded any of us in the room typically are.

One reason is that Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease back in 1991, makes such appearances despite his obvious physical challenges, but also that he does so more out of optimism than obligation. When I asked him during dinner if he dreads this sort of thing, he gave me a look that said both: I've been asked this before, and I still don't really understand the question.

Second, the Fox Foundation, which now has raised around $750 million since its 2000 founding, is disruptive in a way that particularly appeals to those who spend their professional lives around technology founders. It has partnered directly with pharma companies without asking for equity in return (that may not sound unusual, but it really is). For example, it played an integral role in the creation of Denali Therapeutics, which is expected to go public this week, but isn't on the cap table. Its early grants came within weeks of application, not months. It has no endowment, nor does it want one. Money goes out almost as soon as it comes in, with a sincere goal of putting itself out of business. A few Fox quotes from our on-stage conversation:

  • "It's not a nebulous cloud of doom that hangs over my head. It's a set of challenges and there are rewards in meeting those challenges.... When I go see a doctor there's no question who the expert is. I'm the expert, because I'm living it."
  • "As I learned in school, biology is hard."
  • "When we started the Foundation it was how can we solve this problem... I had a lot of friends in hedge funds and on Wall Street and I thought I need some of these guys. We approached it like a startup."
  • "I like to play guitar, and everyone wants to hear a medley of my hit," he said, when asked why he tries to perform Johnny B. Goode each year at his Foundation's annual gala.
  • "I recently did an interview with Jane Pauley and I was in tears when I left the patient roundtable portion of the segment. Because it reminded me how much they mean to me. A 34 year-old mother of three in the suburbs and who doesn't have access to the same things I have access to, but she has the same experiences. We don't want anything ridiculous – we just want a cure."

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Biden: It's "not the time to relax" COVID mitigation efforts — Tracking coronavirus variants through sewage.
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
  6. World: Brazil's capital enters 24-hour lockdown as coronavirus cases surge.

Buffett eyes slow U.S. progress, but says "never bet against America"

Warren Buffett in New York City in 2017. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Warren Buffett called progress in America "slow, uneven and often discouraging," but retained his long-term optimism in the country, in his closely watched annual shareholder letter released Saturday morning.

Why it matters: It breaks months of uncharacteristic silence from the 90-year-old billionaire Berkshire Hathaway CEO — as the fragile economy coped with the pandemic and the U.S. saw a contentious presidential election.

Restaurant software meets the pandemic moment

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Food delivery companies have predictably done well during the pandemic. But restaurant software providers are also having a moment as eateries race to handle the avalanche of online orders resulting from severe in-person dining restrictions.

Driving the news: Olo filed last week for an IPO and Toast is rumored to be preparing to do the same very soon.

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