Health Rising: The Scientist, the Seahorse and the Nanoneedle – Catching Up with Ron Davis on ME/CFS


by Cort Johnson

The “Most Famous Scientist in the World” Visits Stanford – Lauds Davis’ End ME/CFS Project

The “most famous scientist in the world” visited Ron Davis and his End ME/CFS group a couple of weeks ago and gave the project a thumbs up. James Watson and Francis Crick produced arguably the single most important breakthrough in science in the past 100 years with their discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953. A couple of weeks ago James Watson spent a day with Ron Davis and his team going over their End ME/CFS project.

James Watson, Janet Dafoe and Ron Davis

James Watson, Janet Dafoe and Ron Davis

Over his 35 years as director, Watson built the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) into one of the world’s leading research institutions. It now contains over 50 labs and employs over 600 researchers. Eight Nobel Prize winners have done their work at CSHL.

Watson is also credited with mentoring or supervising many graduate and post-graduate students who went on to have stellar careers, including four future Nobel Prize winners and Ron Davis.

Watson was also a seminal figure in the genetic field’s version of President Kennedy’s moonshot – the Human Genome Project. Watson headed up the project for two years until he resigned to protest NIH’s Director Healy’s attempt to patent gene discoveries stating  “The nations of the world must see that the human genome belongs to the world’s people, as opposed to its nations.”  (The Supreme Court later ruled that genetic sequences cannot be patented.) He has also protested the Vietnam war and nuclear proliferation. In 2007, citing the need for personalized medicine, James Watson became the second person to publish his fully sequenced genome online.

Watson’s controversial statements regarding race and intelligence lead to his resignation from the directorship of Cold Spring Harbor Lab in 2007. (He later apologized for them).

Ron Davis and his wife Janet Dafoe’s history with Watson dates back decades. Watson supervised some of Davis’ work at the Cold Spring Harbor Lab, and when Davis left for Stanford he returned to Cold Spring in the summer to teach classes for several years. During one period Janet worked for a time at his office. Janet said they’ve known Watson for many years, they stayed at his home when Ron was teaching there, and have even backpacked together. They know him as a great intellect and a good friend who sometimes lacks a filter that most people have.

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