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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 7 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.

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