Season 6, Episode 8
August 2, 2021
episode-hero-page
Season 6, Episode 8
August 2, 2021

Sean Doherty is a dad on a mission. At just 2 years old, his son Finn was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Now, Sean is a leading venture philanthropist who helped create the T1D Fund, which makes equity investments in companies developing life-changing therapies to cure his son – and millions of others – of Type 1 Diabetes.

Sean Doherty is a dad on a mission. At just 2 years old, his son Finn was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Now, Sean is a leading venture philanthropist who helped create the T1D Fund, which makes equity investments in companies developing life-changing therapies to cure his son – and millions of others – of Type 1 Diabetes.

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About How To End Diabetes Through Generosity

Legendary basketball player Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” He knew what all influential leaders know – that the most sizable impacts come not from a single person, but a group of people working together toward a common goal. 

The same is true in healthcare, where cross-industry teams from government, academia, pharmaceutical companies and insurance must work together to advance treatments and cures for life-changing diseases. 

In the last several years, another player has joined that team: venture philanthropists. These individuals donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to funds which are invested in new and emerging medical therapies that, if proven successful, could benefit millions around the world. Rather than getting a financial return on these high-risk assets, they earn the satisfaction of knowing they are saving and improving lives.

A Donation Toward Medical Innovation

Sean Doherty is the chairman of one of these venture philanthropy funds. The T1D Fund, which operates under the umbrella of JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), draws on Sean’s expertise in global investing and his passion to help people who suffer from Type 1 Diabetes – like Sean’s son, Finn, who was diagnosed at just 2 years old.

In the last four years, Sean has gathered 90 families directly impacted by T1D who, like him, want to make strides toward finding a cure. Together they have raised nearly $100 million to invest in products and therapies that enable people with T1D, or those at risk of developing it, to lead a more normal and longer life.

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • The weight that energizes Sean
  • The “aha moment” he keeps coming back to 
  • Why it’s more challenging to fund research into childhood diseases
  • The surprising group of people who are making T1D Fund successful 
  • What everyday tasks new diabetes treatments are allowing Sean’s son to do 

 

Enter to Win a Scholarship to Write of Passage

We’re offering listeners the chance to win one of three scholarships to the Write of Passage online writing course. Led by former guest David Perell, the next class runs September 1-October 6 and will teach you to collate your ideas, write them down, and present them in a way that maximizes your online presence for personal and professional gain.

To receive information on how to apply for a scholarship, subscribe to our email newsletter at crazygoodturns.org/subscribe. More details coming soon. 

Sean Doherty Interview

SEAN DOHERTY: Thank you, Frank. It’s very nice of you to have me here today.

FRANK BLAKE: No, it’s a privilege. I’ve read, Sean, that there are over one million people in the United States with Type 1 Diabetes, and I was wondering if you could start maybe educating our audience a little bit about the disease.

SEAN DOHERTY: Sure. Yeah, there are about 1.6 million Americans that have the disease and 20 million people around the world, surely several million who are developing it right now and don’t even know about it. The most important thing to know is people get confused between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes, They’re actually very different diseases. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, where the body basically just essentially rejects the beta cells that produce insulin. It strikes suddenly in otherwise healthy people. It can come, really, at any age.

My son was diagnosed at two years old. You hear diagnoses even a little bit earlier than that, and often you hear diagnoses as late as 50. An auto immune disease that has a lot more in common with other gut-based auto immune diseases, really, than Type 2 Diabetes, which is really when the body can’t effectively use the insulin that it’s making.

FRANK BLAKE: What year was your son diagnosed with diabetes?

SEAN DOHERTY: Our son, Finn, is 20 years old now. He was diagnosed at two years old in 2002.

FRANK BLAKE: How is he doing now?

SEAN DOHERTY: He’s doing really well. He’s just back from his second year in college. I think, like any other kid in college, his number one concern is that this has been a tough year.

FRANK BLAKE: Yeah.

SEAN DOHERTY: A tough year for everybody and college kids, in particular. The technology and care is a lot better than it was 20 years ago. When he was an infant, it was really extraordinary. He was 30 pounds or so. We had to use three different kinds of insulin. There was long-acting insulin, a medium-acting insulin and a short-acting insulin. He was so small that we actually had to dilute the fast-acting insulin with a saline solution and you’ve giving shots to this 2-year-old kid for years and years.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow.

SEAN DOHERTY: It has changed dramatically now. He’s on a pump like a lot of people with Type 1 Diabetes, an insulin pump that is now in the early stages of speaking to the blood glucose monitor that checks his sugar. It’s a lot healthier, but still it’s a pretty burdensome disease.

FRANK BLAKE: Did you decide early on, with your son’s diagnosis, that you were going to get involved or was that a gradual thing? How did that occur?

SEAN DOHERTY: It was pretty immediate. I probably had a pretty different reaction from my wife. Mine was, “We’ve got to do something about this right now,” and I joined in with JDRF. Hers was probably a lot more sane, which was, “This is really hard.” It’s really hard and it became an overwhelming full time job for her, in particular, and for our family.

I got involved in JDRF right out of the gate. It’s a global organization focused in the United States, but a global organization really formed by parents about 50 years ago to try to improve the lives of people with Type 1.

FRANK BLAKE: Did you jump both feet in right off or was it more a gradual, “Boy, this is interesting. It’s important. I’ve got to spend more time on it?”

SEAN DOHERTY: It was pretty gradual. I was a mid-level associate in a law firm then, so I was working all the time. I got involved and volunteered, was asked to join the local board. JDRF has a bunch of chapters all over the country, so it’s the local folks, really your fundraiser and community builders. I started helping with the fundraising, but it was pretty modest, for sure, for many years, for at least the first five or eight years.

FRANK BLAKE: Then what flipped the switch? What was the change?

SEAN DOHERTY: I was say that, even then, it was probably more of a dimmer switch than a switch.

I got more and more involved. I started moving into the officer positions to try to help lead fundraising efforts and stuff like that, and eventually became the president of the chapter and tried to help build the local organization into something that was a little bigger and a little more robust. We raised a lot more money, which was nice, you get sucked into something like that and realize that you really are doing a lot of good.

I would say, speaking of Crazy Good Turns, I think the kinds of things that my wife has worked on have been even more impactful, family by family. This is a really, really life-changing diagnosis for a family, particularly when there are young children involved. The number of moms that she has mentored over the years has been really terrific.

When a mom has a new diagnosis, they end up finding out my wife’s name and they spend a lot of time together. The moms actually tend to know this disease even better than the nurses sometimes.

FRANK BLAKE: I’ll bet. Now at some point, you leave the law firm and go to Bain Capital, which is one of the preeminent private equity firms in the country, and then you leave Bain Capital and do this venture philanthropy fund. Is that also a gradual move or was there some precipitating event?

SEAN DOHERTY: The dimmer switch turned into a much stronger switch in 2015. I was still at Bain Capital at the time, but a guy by the name of John Brady, who was also a volunteer to JDRF, the international chairman of it, in 2015 invited my wife and me out to dinner in Boston. I thought we were just going to get asked for a bunch of money or something. Instead, what he asked me was would I be interested in putting together a business plan for a venture arm of JDRF.

JDRF is one of the world’s leading funders of research in Type 1 Diabetes, but it had made a couple of efforts in trying to fill the so-called valley of death and to try to make sure that some of this research was actually turning into commercial opportunities. I said sure. It was one of those interesting moments that I’ve thought of many times.

I remember waking up the next morning after this dinner. It was one of those days you remember the weather and just thinking, “Gosh, I’ve got to go do this. It sounds really, really cool.” It hit me at just the right time. It seemed like it was maybe a way that I could use some of what I knew how to do.

I said I would take it on and there was another guy at Bain Capital named Colin Motley, who was a private equity investor, has Type 1 Diabetes himself. He happened to be on leave from Bain Capital. He was at Harvard Business School as a second year, so had some time to help there. Together, we put together an effort and started by just doing a whole lot of diligence about what was actually going on. It sort of blew me away.

FRANK BLAKE: Going on in the world of research in diabetes, going on in venture philanthropy generally?

SEAN DOHERTY: Well, not venture philanthropy but what was going on in investing in Type 1.

FRANK BLAKE: Right.

SEAN DOHERTY: The answer was not a lot when it came to curing it. In the course of this, you sort of learn very much about the life sciences and healthcare ecosystem, which I find fascinating because there are so many different pieces that have to come together from government, academia, philanthropy on one end of the spectrum, big industry like pharmaceutical companies but also insurance payers and regulators. In the middle is this really important but relatively small life sciences venture capital industry which plays this essential role because the pharmaceutical companies will be naturally risk averse. There are thousands of diseases, tens of thousands of opportunities and they essentially need a proving ground.

What we witnessed in the fall of ’15 as we were researching this is there was actually a little bit of fog. We had a great philanthropy in JDRF and also, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, really good government support, particularly from the U. S. Government, UK government, Canadian government, and pretty strong academic medical centers. All those pieces were there for great T1D research.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was pretty good pharmaceutical support and insurance support in the insulin manufacturers, the pump manufacturers, the investment in better blood sugar monitors that were smaller, more accurate. They were leading to better health outcomes, so it looked like all of this was working, but if you dig down, the largest cure-oriented Type 1 Diabetes investment round, when we were looking at this in 2015, was a $44 million series A round in a company called Semma Therapeutics, which has since gone on to be very successful, bought by Vertex.

FRANK BLAKE: Right.

SEAN DOHERTY: … but that was all. Type 1 Diabetes relies on a standard of care that’s literally 100 years old.

FRANK BLAKE: So was a more treatment oriented spend, not curative spend. Is that-

SEAN DOHERTY: Exactly, exactly, and so we really started to get behind, well, why is that?

FRANK BLAKE: Why is that? Yeah.

SEAN DOHERTY: We found there were three prevailing myths. The first one was, among really smart people, a lot of confusion between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, which is where we started today. There was just a misunderstanding about it and it gets shortened all the time in the press as diabetes. There are a lot of drugs that help people with diabetes. When you hear that in the press, it’s actually Type 2, and just a lot of confusion about it.

The second myth is a legacy of what the disease used to be called. It was always referred to as juvenile diabetes, so you’ve got juvenile diabetes and adult onset diabetes. Well, that was actually the wrong categorization. There are kids, unfortunately, who get Type 2 Diabetes, who suffer from obesity and a lack of activity and may develop Type 2 as a child. There certainly are adults who get autoimmune diabetes, or Type 1. There’s a lot of confusion in that.

If you’re a venture capitalist, you hear juvenile and you think, “Harder, more expensive, more difficult to get approved.” Even look at how the COVID vaccine is advancing. The kids will be last because of safety concerns and expense around that, so you just write it off pretty quickly.

Then the third myth was that insulin was a cure. That the standard of care that had been developed was basically fine now when, in fact, there are all sorts of reasons that isn’t the case. What we thought was, and we, meaning this is a group of volunteers. One of the cool things about the T1D Fund, it really was formed by a small group of like-minded volunteers, many of whom are still on our board today.

We looked at that and said if we don’t do something about this, there is literally no one who is going to. One of the strengths that we had, when we were building this thing, is that JDRF did have such a dominant share of the T1D philanthropic market. If you take the Helmsley Charitable Trust out of New York plus JDRF, that’s the lion’s share of non-governmental funding for Type 1 Diabetes research in the world.

That’s a strength that I’ll get to in a moment, about how we were able to build this thing, but it also was a pretty big obligation because if you could literally say if we don’t do this, no one is going to do it. We realized it was time.

FRANK BLAKE: Did you start by, in addition to seeing the need in Type 1 Diabetes, also understand how venture philanthropy works, what are the successes, what does that look like or did you go, “Nah, we can pretty much, this can be our own thing?”

SEAN DOHERTY: Probably a little more of the latter. I get asked by a lot of disease foundations now about forming their own vehicle. I think a lot of philanthropies look at this and they see this is a really great way to raise money because it sounds really interesting.

People that are investors in their day jobs, or CEOs, they might have the resources to do it and this is sort of interesting. It has proven to be a really great way to raise money. We’re coming up on having raised $100 million of donor capital into this.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow.

SEAN DOHERTY: My advice to them all the time is never think about this as a fundraising vehicle. Think very specifically about what we’re trying to do, so the answer to your question is yes, we looked at a few models. There really aren’t very many. The CF Foundation comes to mind with the amazing things that they did. That was a little bit of a different model. They took a lot of the assets of the foundation itself and put it into a company that’s getting bought also, coincidentally, by Vertex, and has yielded a lot of money for CF. That’s sort of the gold standard.
Ours was different to say, well, what if we set up a fund with the laser focus of creating a venture market in Type 1 Diabetes on the core premise that this is a billions of dollars problem, not a tens of millions of dollars problem, and if we’re the world’s leader in Type 1 Diabetes, we have to adjust our business model to accept that core reality. Philanthropy cannot come up with billions of dollars.

JDRF or philanthropy, for that matter, cannot cure disease, but I think this disease doesn’t get cured without JDRF. How do we square that? How do we maybe create a vehicle that can take advantage of the incredible asset that we have, which is a knowledge and network base? We tell the venture capital firms that invest alongside us and the companies we invest in, that without any exaggeration, we are one, two or three phone calls away from anyone on the planet, who knows something of significance in Type 1 Diabetes.

Think about the fact that there was no market in this at the time. We were trying to convince people who hadn’t invested in this before, to do it. They want to figure out a way to de-risk it. They want to look at an opportunity and gosh, by co-investing alongside the T1D Fund, we get access to that kind of diligence and once we’ve invested in the company alongside them, we have ready access to clinician network, scientific network, payer network, patient advocacy resources, everything like that that will help make this company more successful.

That was the model that we went at. I’ve always thought of this as an impact investing fund. It’s just that our method of capital formation is tailored to the impact we’re trying to have. We needed to raise the money philanthropically because the thing that we were bringing, our value add, was reliance on a philanthropic asset. We couldn’t raise this as a for-profit fund because the reason our dollar was valuable to others was this philanthropic resource that stood behind us.

FRANK BLAKE: Right.

SEAN DOHERTY: We were able to convince, now 90 families have donated to us, every single one of them directly affected by this disease, which is a badge of honor for us. It started as a fundraising tactic, but honestly, I like it. I like that 90 families with this disease got together and said, “Let’s go really disrupt things.”

FRANK BLAKE: Right, for the greater good for everyone who’s dealing with it. Let me ask you. I watched a video where you received an award from JDRF for what you’ve been doing, and you started — and it was a great talk, by the way. I might ask you at the end how people can find a link to it. I know I can’t even remember how I found a link to it, but I did. You started the talk by saying, I guess it was to this person, John Brady, but you thanked one of your colleagues for talking you off the ledge several times.

SEAN DOHERTY: It probably was John. I can’t remember that specifically but-

FRANK BLAKE: What was the ledge in doing something like this and what talked you off it?

SEAN DOHERTY: I wish I could remember the exact context, but starting something like this surely wasn’t without its challenges. We were forming something that, first of all, didn’t exist but it had to be a part of this big legacy organization, but not fully integrated into it because it was a different animal. When we were starting this, I was worried, “Is anyone ever going to give this any money? Is anyone going to come work for this?” That was one of the main things I was worried about.

I figured if you can get the right people to come work for it, it’s going to be easy to raise money. How do we get true life sciences venture investors, and life sciences VCs are a different breed from most VCs in the sense that the overwhelming majority of them have a scientific PhD or medical degree. Then they’ve made themselves into investors, but they have that scientific background.

It’s pretty niche-y. Are we going to be able to attract them into this concept of venture capital without the opportunity for big upset, which obviously drives a lot of venture capitalists — you’re going to get a share of profits. We can’t give a share of profits to our staff because this is a philanthropic model. Are we going to be able to attract anyone to come to it, and then what if we do both of those things, we raise money and we get a team to come work for it and the market just isn’t there and the VCs don’t want to invest alongside us? And so – 

FRANK BLAKE: That’s a pretty good ledge. That’s a pretty scary ledge. 

SEAN DOHERTY: It was a series of ledges and then –

FRANK BLAKE: What talked you off it?

SEAN DOHERTY: Yeah. Well, John was always a very steady presence for me. If you think about Crazy Good Turns, I think giving me the challenge and the opportunity to do something like this, yeah, it was life changing and being somebody that was always there ready to talk to me about a particular challenge, particularly because it’s a little bit of tear-out of a broader organization. We’re run separately. The fund is a wholly owned sub, but it’s governed by its own board that tends to have investors on it, has its own investment committee.

It’s a revolutionary concept within a disease foundation that we weren’t going to go through the normal grant making protocols that, in most disease philanthropies, can take six, nine, twelve months because there’s pretty established best practices in how one does that. That can’t work that way in a venture fund. It was time to make an investment and we had to set it up that way. There were a lot of challenges in getting it structured and that wouldn’t have happened without him.

FRANK BLAKE: Yeah, so I imagine, and you correct me, as you go down this path and now decide to do it full time, that there has to be a lot of both discomfort and then some compensating inspiration. We’ve talked some about this discomfort. Where are the sources of the inspiration? How do you tackle something this huge and say, “Yes, this is progress. I can see we’re making a difference?”

SEAN DOHERTY: Well, we can look at some objective measurements. I said a little bit earlier that the biggest round in the space, when we started this, was a $44 million round. In the last four and a half years, over half a billion dollars of venture capital money has gone into Type 1 Diabetes. We have investments in 25 companies. About 20 of those are cure oriented, and to cure Type 1, you have to have an immune therapy and you have to have a so-called beta cell therapy that’s going to either make new beta cells or make the beta cells work again.

The really great and inspirational thing about it was how a group of parents and grandparents stared each other in the face and said, “Should we go for this?” and we did it. And to not just get it off the launch pad but to continue to refine and make this model better and better and better, that kind of partnership that was founded on all of us having made a promise, basically, to our kids or grandkids, either explicitly or implicitly, the way parents and grandparents do, that we’re going to do everything we possibly can to change the answer here.

I think it’s particularly acute… This is true of any disease so I won’t try to compare it, but I’ll just speak from what I’ve witnessed in Type 1 Diabetes. This is a maintenance disease, meaning your body literally doesn’t make any insulin. The number of things that you do every single day, even the two of us now with the amount of focusing on this conversation, that leads to changes in your blood sugar that our bodies are producing insulin counteracts to keep your blood sugar at a steady level.

There’s a difference in kids in their blood sugar between they’re going to a lacrosse practice, which will tend to drive down blood sugar, versus a lacrosse game, which counteracts with a lot of adrenalin, so the insulin needs are different. People with Type 1 Diabetes think about Type 1 Diabetes all the time, all of the time, in everything that they do.

My son said to me about six months ago, some of this new technology, actually, the blood glucose sensors speak to the pump, it’s called a closed loop, where some of the decision making is now happening automatically instead of having to think about how many units of insulin you need to counteract where your blood sugar is. He said something to me that he just said matter of factly, two things, actually, that take your breath away. One was describing an entire morning that he didn’t think about Type 1.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow. Oh, wow.

SEAN DOHERTY: It’s sad, right? He’s had this disease for 18 years, and to describe it that way. The other thing that he said to me about this new closed loop technology, which, by the way, JDRF and its CFO, Aaron Kowalski, were so important in driving this and in getting companies to adopt it and convince the FDA that it was safe. Overnight control is really difficult because a lot of the foods you eat in the evenings metabolize differently and have different spikes at different times of the night. One of the great benefits of this technology is you can pick the level that you want to be at, the blood sugar level, and the two devices working in tandem will keep it almost exactly at that level overnight when they’re working well.

He said to me that, “Dad, we would have no way of really understanding this, but how much different your morning and your day feels when you wake up every morning with a blood sugar of 110 versus a blood sugar of whatever. My day is different when I wake up with a blood sugar of 110 instead of a blood sugar of 270 or something.”

I guess, to go back to your original question, all of us on our board and our broader group of volunteers and these 90 families are bound by this, that we’ve watched someone in our lives, and in some cases, the people involved themselves have it, but most of it is watching people we love very much not complain about it and put in this effort every single minute of every single day to keep themselves healthy. I think it has been very inspirational for me to see what a group of parents and grandparents can just decide to do to change the answer almost out of recognition of all of their efforts. They don’t get to take a day off of Type 1, so I think it pushes all of us. It certainly pushed me.

FRANK BLAKE: If the Sean Doherty of today goes back six years and talks to yourself of six years ago, what does he say to him?

SEAN DOHERTY: Huh. I think, take chances like this. Look for opportunities in how you can make the lives of others better. It’s equal or even more exciting for the person doing that kind of thing, even than the people that you’re helping. I don’t know if that makes sense.

FRANK BLAKE: Yeah.

SEAN DOHERTY: I’m so glad that when I woke up that morning and thought this is something I have to try, something like this has given me a lot of faith in what people can do when they collectively put their minds to something and believe in each other. This is just such a strange time in our country and to have something like this in my life, I think, has been a real blessing.

Every once in a while, I have to pinch myself and say, “Gosh, of all the things that we thought could happen are actually happening. Our venture capital firms, when they hear about a potential Type 1 opportunity, because of this terrific staff we’ve hired and their reputation, they get phone calls from these name-brand life sciences VC firms saying things like, “We’re interested in it, but we wouldn’t want to make this investment unless the T1D Fund invested alongside us.”

We’re not there yet. Even being invited to do something like this, there’s this implication that this is a great accomplishment. This is early, early innings. We’ve set a foundation for something that has catalyzed a market, but we’re still too many years away from curing this. I think the best and most important days of the T1D Fund are ahead of it, actually. What we’ve done so far is really just get it off the launch pad and get it into orbit, but there’s a lot of work to do yet. I think we’ve built a good foundation, but the work really lies ahead, actually.

FRANK BLAKE: Where will you be five to 10 years from now? 

SEAN DOHERTY: Me personally?

FRANK BLAKE: If you let yourself be really optimistic, where will you be five to 10 years from now?

SEAN DOHERTY: I wish I had an answer to that one, Frank. That’s a question that I find myself sitting in a chaise lounge chair staring at the ceiling asking all of the time. I’m awfully devoted to this cause. It’s fun to see a place where one can make an impact.

FRANK BLAKE: Where will the fund be in five to 10 years?

SEAN DOHERTY: I think that the T1D Fund will have been involved in some of the most important things to ever happen in this disease. I started to say this to try this phrase out six months ago, but now I really believe it and I think the T1D Fund has transformed the fight to cure Type 1 Diabetes. Now we have to see just how good it can be.

When some of our companies have been sold or gone public, so we’ve ever actually been able to sell that stock, it recycles into the fund and the fund just keeps, really, it becomes self perpetuating. What’s interesting about life science is that the money comes first. The pharmaceutical companies are looking at the huge landscape, but they don’t want to wait too long to miss out on an opportunity. A lot of smaller companies get bought when they’re in phase 1 or phase 2 trials, early, where, at the time, they’re just being looked at for safety and efficacy.

Some of our donors are like, “Well, that’s great, that there’s all this return and everything but what about the cure?” Getting across to people that that is going to take more time and the importance of the T1D Fund is to guide this. I don’t want people to start doing lousy T1D deals. A few big blowups in the industry and all of a sudden, you’re going to set yourself back a little bit.

FRANK BLAKE: Right.

SEAN DOHERTY: Now I think we’ve gone from a catalyzing market, which is objectively happening, to an accelerating market, which also I think is objectively happening, to almost guiding the market. We’re starting to see that happen, too, when these firms call us up and ask us what we think about it. There were 30 venture capital firms that invested alongside us in four and a half years. Two-thirds of them had never done anything in Type 1 before, either treatment or cure.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow. Congratulations. That’s amazing. That’s terrific. You may have answered this earlier with your comment about John Brady, but who is someone who has done a crazy good turn for you?

SEAN DOHERTY: John is surely one of them. The other person that comes to mind is the person that hired me into Bain Capital. He’s a guy by the name of Mike Goss. I was still a young lawyer at a law firm in Boston. I was 36 years old and he picked me out of a crowd almost and made me the first general counsel at Bain Capital, which itself, in retrospect, was a real building opportunity.

He encouraged me to experiment, to do a lot of stuff. He gave me a lot of rope and just believed in me. I think that’s a pretty important thing when someone just picks you out of a crowd almost and says, “I don’t know. I think this person has what it takes to do something different,” and trusts that person. I would probably look at the two of them. They actually have something in common, right, which is creating opportunity.

FRANK BLAKE: Right, but also seeing something in you, right?

SEAN DOHERTY: Also having the confidence themselves to just let me go run with it. I think a lot of people can identify talent. It’s a subset of those people that can also say, “Let’s-

FRANK BLAKE: Let’s trust them.

SEAN DOHERTY: “Let’s let that person go.” Thinking about it here, I think each of them did that.

FRANK BLAKE: That’s terrific. I give great guests, always, opportunities to identify if there’s a book or something you read that has been interesting to you or had built an insight for you in terms of generosity and philanthropy. I haven’t given you a heads up on this so it’s okay if you take a pass and we can move on to other things, but is there such a book?

SEAN DOHERTY: The one that comes to mind is Our Towns by Jim Fallows and his wife. He’s an Atlantic writer. It was a terrific book. It’s not really about philanthropy, so to speak, but it is about a bunch of communities around the country, small cities and big towns that have faced different challenges and have figured out how to make where they live and their culture better. The commonality with all of them is public and private partnerships, working together with a common goal. Each one is different. A couple of them are failure stories, but most of them are success stories. I recommend that book to anybody.

FRANK BLAKE: Okay. I had never heard of that book so I want to read it. It actually connects back to your comment about all of the people who have been impacted by the disease being your investors and that sense of such a strong community purpose must be both really energizing, but do you occasionally feel the weight of that in your job?

SEAN DOHERTY: Yes, but I find it to be a virtuous cycle there’s certainly elements of every kind of role – philanthropy has its own – that are just hard after a while, in part asking people for money all the time, or things like that. You pause for a second and then you realize that the donors and the patients and everyone in this community, I think, are really hopeful about what we’re doing. You realize that there’s just no way that you can let off the gas.

When you say, “All right, I’m getting back in the car and hitting the gas again,” you realize that it makes everybody pretty thrilled. I think it’s exciting to see young PhDs who have come to work with us as associates who get really energized by hearing the stories of people with this disease and what this is meaning to them. I guess I feel the weight of it sometimes but honestly, and maybe it’s just my personality, that weight is pretty energizing.

FRANK BLAKE: That’s phenomenal. This whole what you’re doing is fantastic. It’s really exciting. I guess until you see it through a loved one’s eyes, it’s not obvious what a weight this disease has on the people who have it. God bless you for taking this on. It’s a great thing.

SEAN DOHERTY: It is and I hope it will make a big difference and I hope that some day this disease will be cured. I think that the first thing that will happen is that no one should get this disease anymore. It’s another thing to reverse it. I think that’s going to be longer and harder, but no one should get this anymore. We’ve figured out a way to stop autoimmune disease and that has increased over the last decade. Type 1 is harder because it doesn’t give you any warning sign before it’s too late. Somehow we’ve got to figure that one out and I think we will.

FRANK BLAKE: If listeners are interested in learning either more about the disease or learning more about yourself, where should they go? Where are the best places to find information?

SEAN DOHERTY: Our website is T1DFund.org and that has a lot of resources on it. It will connect you through to all sorts of things and videos. The fund is also on LinkedIn. It’s JDRF T1D Fund.

FRANK BLAKE: About yourself or they’ll get to you through that?

SEAN DOHERTY: Well, I guess they can get to me through that but honestly, I’m not the attraction. The thing that makes this so great is that a community came together to do something disruptive that has actually worked.

FRANK BLAKE: That’s a perfect place to end. Thank you, Sean. Thanks for everything you’re doing. That’s terrific.

SEAN DOHERTY: Thank you very much.

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