On Saturday, September 12, 2009, Alcor held its Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors. The meeting was attended in person by all directors. In addition to the public Annual Meeting, the directors took the opportunity to spend about nine hours on Saturday and another four hours on Sunday holding a private Strategic Meeting with management.
Director and officer elections were held at the Annual Meeting.
The existing slate of directors, James Clement, J.D., Ravin Jain, M.D., Saul Kent, Ralph Merkle, Ph.D., Michael Riskin, Ph.D., CPA, Michael Seidl, Ph.D., Tim Shavers, J.D., Brian Wowk, Ph.D., and officers, Jennifer Chapman (President and Executive Director), R. Michael Perry, Ph.D. (Secretary), and Joe Hovey (Treasurer) were carried forward for another year.
Alcor’s Board of Directors is self-perpetuating according to Alcor’s bylaws. There was some discussion during the Annual Meeting of the value of bringing on new board members from time to time. It was also observed that director rotation must be balanced with the need for institutional memory and continuity of the organization mission. Potential future board members could be invited to serve as advisors or committee members. At present three of eight board members have served less than two years, while the longest serving member has served for 16 years. There seems to be a balance of old and new members at present.
The largest portion of the Strategic Meeting was spent discussing Alcor’s operating budget. Alcor’s budget is approximately balanced through 2010, however between 2011 and 2013 a deficit will open up due to expiration of pledged donations from four large donors. This is not unusual because irregular large donations and bequests have allowed Alcor to operate at levels about 50% higher than those supported by dues and cryopreservation income alone for most of Alcor’s history. However donors have expressed a desire to see the present level of operations put on a self-sustaining footing. During the Strategic Meeting, a plan to do this was developed using a detailed financial analysis developed by Tim Shavers and Jennifer Chapman. It will involve a combination of cost-saving measures, membership dues increases, and a fundraising plan developed by Saul Kent. A centerpiece of the fundraising plan is an income-generating endowment with legal protections to make it perpetual. Details will be disclosed later this year and next year.
It was noted that the Comprehensive Member Standby (CMS) fund is doing very well, with a balance of more than half a million dollars. Drawing from the CMS fund to cover more operating costs related to readiness for performing standbys on cases remains an option.
There was discussion of when to raise cryopreservation funding minimums, by how much, and how funding should be allocated. The last increase in funding minimums took place in 2005. Minimums currently consist of amounts earmarked for the Patient Care Trust (PCT), CMS fund, and immediate costs of doing cases. It was suggested that minimums might be raised to include an additional cryopreservation funding allocation that was earmarked to support general Alcor operations. It was felt that this additional source of operating funds could allow Alcor to operate at a level more consistent with its difficult mission. Further discussion on this matter is planned.
The calculation of how much the operating budget might benefit from such an allocation is complicated by the traditional practice of only imposing new minimum funding requirements on new members (“grandfathering” existing members). Allowing members to stay with the cryopreservation funding level they first signed up with many years earlier means that sometimes Alcor does cases with funding levels well below the present cost of doing cases. This practice is sometimes justified as a reward to members who’ve supported the organization for many years by paying dues. However grandfathering would be more sustainable if some portion of dues actually went into a fund to cover future underfunded cases.
It was generally agreed that Alcor is overdue for a detailed cost analysis of doing cases. Such an analysis would help to rationally determine new cryopreservation minimums. However an increase in minimums for new members is likely even before such an analysis is completed. Future Minimum Funding levels might also be accompanied by Recommended Funding levels. Obtaining higher Recommend Funding makes it possible to deal with a range of contingencies, including unexpected expenses not covered by Alcor or CMS, the desire to fund new enhanced cryopreservation or storage methods that might become available in the future but which might cost more, or simply to insure that existing members can afford possible increases in funding minimums, if that should at some future time be required.
Performance of cryonics cases was discussed. Discussion included standby deployment decisions, casework contractor performance, problems during recent cases, and production of case reports. It was noted with gratification that case reports are being regularly generated by the Transport Coordinator in 2009, with completed reports for two of four cases already published.
There was also discussion of training schedules and roles of remote groups. It was articulated that Alcor is attempting to implement a model of having cryonics professionals do cases, with remote groups trained as first responders to do placement in ice, cardiopulmonary support, and medication administration. If professionals arrive in time, remote team members could assist the professionals in these functions. It is thought that blood substitution (“washout”) in particular should only be done by professionals who do it or similar procedures frequently. In this vein, Alcor contractor Suspended Animation, Inc., has established a network of clinical perfusionists trained in cryonics blood substitution procedures and able to do work on cryonics cases on a temp basis. Alcor’s Transport Coordinator and paramedic, Aaron Drake, will also be trained to do these advanced procedures.
More Technical Personnel Needed
The need for establishing a wider reservoir of technical knowledge within Alcor’s facility was discussed. In particular, the only person who knows the theoretical concepts and specific equipment well enough to do a cryoprotectant perfusion at Alcor without struggling is Research Fellow, Hugh Hixon. Additional individuals who might be trained to do cryoprotective perfusions were discussed. It’s a difficult problem because unlike simple blood substitution, cryoprotective perfusion involves a large amount of specific knowledge outside the realm of clinical perfusion in mainstream medicine.
More generally, Alcor needs another full-time staff member with similar science and engineering skills as Hugh Hixon to ensure redundancy of capability in many areas. It was therefore decided that a position called Technical Coordinator will be created and advertised as soon as a description of the position can be completed.
It was decided to explore publishing Cryonics magazine electronically. The magazine is already made available as a PDF on the Alcor website. The format would remain unchanged. The change would be that paper copies would only be received by individuals who ordered and paid for copies from an on-demand magazine printing service. Members or subscribers who did not have Web access to order paper copies could do so through Alcor. Alcor could also order its own paper copies for promotional use. This would save approximately $30,000 per year.
The board and management of Alcor wish to thank the staff, membership and donors for support over the past year. We especially thank the Life Extension Foundation, the Millers, and Edward and Vivian Thorp for their joint grant pledged last year for $450,000 per year for three years, and the anonymous donor who pledged $150,000 per year to Alcor’s general fund for the same time period. Thanks also to former Alcor CEO, Jerry Lemler, M.D., for kindly chairing and moderating the Strategic Meeting again this year.