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Alcor News

News Blog of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation

September 2011 CEO Report

by Max More
My membership with Alcor started 25 years ago, as of September 14. When I joined a quarter-century ago, I was the 67th member and Alcor had cryopreserved just six patients. Where will we be in another 25 years?

No one knows. But it’s not implausible that, if we make it happen, we will be on a more financially secure footing for the very long term; we will be using advances such as medical monitoring, new means of accelerating initial cooling, intermediate temperature storage, and will be caring for hundreds of patients. Or, Alcor might no longer exist, having been shut down by regulators or having gone bankrupt. Or we might be hanging onto to existence while providing sub-optimal cryopreservations. Which outcome is realized is at least partly up to us.

At the annual Strategic Meeting a couple of weeks ago, I outlined my strategic priorities. The deluge of tasks that need attending to makes it tough to focus sufficiently on what matters most. Creating explicit strategic priorities helps create and maintain that focus. The four priorities, broadly defined, are robustness, growth, finances, and research.

Robustness includes succession planning, documentation of processes, patient security, political protection and relationship-building, continuous improvement of operations, and a media action team to respond to criticism. Growth includes a speakers’ bureau, presence at conferences, updated and improved promotional material, use of social media, online video, and development of international membership and response capability. Finances include maintaining a balanced budget, pursuing a solution to underfunding and supporting implementation, and finding new benefactors. Research starts with getting broad input into possible research goals consistent with Alcor’s mission, especially high-value projects that are not being done by others.

Financial issues
With great regret, I authorized 11 membership terminations. (Although one of these 11, at the last moment, responded to our messages and made arrangements to pay their dues.) Originally there were 30 members scheduled for membership cancellation, but the number was whittled down by Diane and Bonnie’s efforts. These are members who not only have not paid dues in a long time (often two years or longer), but mostly were not even responding to attempts to reach them.

We are in the process of reducing our liquid nitrogen costs. Our supplier has agreed to a lower price, even if we make no other changes. We will discuss with the PCT board options for further long-term savings by leasing or buying a 3000 gallon bulk tank.

Communications, promotion, and growth
Barry Aarons and I met to discuss two main items. The first was the need to continue the practice of Alcor leaders meeting with local politicians, so that they know our face and are less likely to introduce or support legislation or regulations harmful to our operations and our patients. We also discussed having speakers from Alcor (primarily but not limited to myself) give talks to organizations in the area.

Over the last month or so, I made three major trips. The first of these was a networking trip to Northern California. There I visited and talked to those involved in four organizations, each of whom included several Alcor members: Halcyon Molecular, Singularity University, SENS Foundation (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), and BioTime. Halcyon has a number of Alcor members. The principals of the company and I discussed the possibility of making Alcor membership a company benefit (subsidizing or covering the dues).

The second trip was to Cambridge, England for the fifth SENS conference, organized by Alcor member Aubrey de Grey. On the afternoon of Saturday September 3, I gave a talk on “Cryonic Life Extension”. This placed cryopreservation in the context of regenerative medicine and our shared goals. All signs suggest that the talk was well received—something I was unsure of, given that much of the audience now consists of mainstream researchers who may have been unfamiliar with the idea. Several people said they had been thinking about signing up, but would now definitely do so. We may even receive funding for research or other projects.

Several people based in Europe (England, Italy, Switzerland, and other countries) said they would like to see Alcor better support Europeans, and some of those people expressed willingness to help develop our European capabilities.

The third trip was a visit to Cryonics Institute in Michigan. Here’s a short, personal summary: With Mike Perry, I took the 6:10am plane to Detroit, arriving at 12:59pm on Saturday September 17. After picking up a rental car, and driving the 37 or so miles from the airport, then checking in at a nearby hotel, we drove to CI at around 5:00pm.

Andy Zawacki opened the door and showed us in. His friendly welcome set the tone for the weekend. I was shocked to find that Ben Best was lying down, looking in very poor shape. Two days earlier he had fallen off a tall ladder and badly hit his head. His injuries looked serious and over the weekend he was confined to a wheelchair, since he had also hurt his leg. Hopefully he has finally been checked out at a hospital and is on the mend.

At 6:00pm there was a dinner attended by perhaps 20 people, including Mike and myself. I sat across from David Ettinger (and next to Connie Ettinger), who clearly enjoyed telling stories. Conversation was pleasant and the meal was adequate, although I couldn’t bring myself to order the jellyfish.

On Sunday September 18 was the Annual General Meeting from 2:00pm, followed by the memorial for Ettinger at 4:00pm. Mike and I arrived at CI at least a couple of hours before the AGM, giving us time to talk to those present and to explore the building. There’s a small front office area, with no real reception space, and a few smallish rooms, once of which includes a conference table. The patient storage area is a large space with two rows of 8 cryostats each. Apparently, with CI’s 107th patients (coincidentally exactly the same number as Alcor), the 16 cryostats have room for another 27 patients. They will probably be filled in four or five years.

I met and talked with quite a few CI officials and members. All were friendly. At the AGM, I was particularly interested in the financial reports. At the end of 2010, CI had $460,000 in a fund required by the Cemetery Board. They also have less than $1.4 million invested for long-term care outside the Cemetery Board minimum requirement. Returns on investments have been much lower than expected (less than 1%), but liquid nitrogen costs have also been lower. CI has less $15,000 per patient for long-term maintenance and eventual revival.

In their research report, Aschwin and Chana de Wolf discussed levels of care and ischemic damage, noting that two-thirds of CI members suffered considerable cold and warm ischemia, severely compromising their condition. I was struck by the complete lack of response to that slide. No one objected, no one contradicted them, and no one even seemed bothered by it.

The memorial for Robert Ettinger started around 4:00pm. Several CI officials expressed their perspectives on the man. The most extensive (and entertaining) comments were by David Ettinger. He talked of his father being courageous to the point of being reckless. Among his stories was one of Ettinger being mugged outside the old CI building. He gave the mugger $20 but refused to give him the rest. After a struggle, the mugger ended up with no money and no gun. With his friend Dave Shore, he made rocket fuel in the attic of his parent’s house. In the Battle of the Bulge he disobeyed orders and stood up; shrapnel got his legs but would have hit his head if he hadn’t got up. David said his father was “Intermittently very lazy. Sloppy. Dressed like a bum. Dogmatic. Strong and awful sense of humor.” I was disappointed at not being invited to say anything (as I had expected), but no one else was invited to speak about Ettinger.

Overall, not only was it interesting to see CI for the first time, I thought that the attitudes expressed indicated a more friendly relationship between Alcor and CI.

New Alcor Member Forums

After extensive discussion and beta-testing, Alcor has launched a new discussion forum. We recognize the need for a forum where our members can discuss issues relating to Alcor and cryonics in general. We also recognize the need for a forum where members will feel comfortable exchanging ideas without running into hostile behavior of people who are not interested in advancing the cause of cryonics and life extension.

As a consequence, our forum is accessible to the general public but only Alcor members can create an account after their membership status has been confirmed. Some Alcor members have asked for a private forum that is not accessible to the general public so we have added a private forum.

For Alcor members who prefer to keep their identity private the forum also offers the option of using a pseudonym – pending verification of membership status.

As Alcor will soon release a document about its proposed policies on grandfathering and underfunded cases, this is a good time to register for the forums and participate in the discussion.

We try to approve new account applications as soon as possible but there may be a short delay between registration and membership status verification.

The new Alcor Forums can be found at the following URL: http://www.alcor.org/forums/index.php

Readiness and Transport Report

Deployments:
Alcor has had 8 deployments in the last year for Alcor members.
A suspension was performed in 5 of these deployments.
The number of days that were spent on standby for these member totaled 30.
Alcor collaborated with Suspended Animation’s team on 3 of these responses.

The cities that Alcor has conducted standbys/deployments include: Torrance, CA (2x); Palo Alto, CA; Abington, PA; Brooksville, FL; Litchfield Park, AZ (2x); Newport Coast, CA.

Training:
Alcor hosted a total of four different training sessions conducted for the benefit of readiness. Team training was conducted for our teams in Portland, OR; Laughlin, NV; and twice in Arizona.

Aaron Drake renewed his National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians – Paramedic (NREMT-P) certification by obtaining 72 hours of continuing education credits and attending an 8-day Advanced Life Support refresher course. In addition, he maintained his certifications in: Automatic External Defibrillation (AED); Continuous Cardiac Perfusion (CCP-CPR); International Trauma Life Support (ITLS); Pediatric Education for Prehospital Professionals (PEPP); and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

Public Education:
Over the course of the last 12 months, Aaron conducted 59 tours with a total of 214 attendees. Tours are offered to the public twice a week – Tuesdays at 10:00 am and Fridays at 2:00 pm. There are many local colleges that schedule class tours as part of their class curriculum. These include Arizona State University, Ottawa University, Glendale Community College, and Tuscan Unified School District. Special group tours have been provided for Barry Aaron’s legislative representatives to foster positive political awareness, visitors from Finnish cryonics society as well as Kriorus, the Arizona chapter of the World Futurist Society and members from TEDMED.

Case reports for the following patients were published to Alcor’s website:

  • A-2435
  • A-1614
  • A-2361
  • A-2420
  • A-1712

Administrative Report

Membership Statistics
Alcor had 944 members on its Emergency Responsibility List. Four memberships were approved during the month of August, no memberships were reinstated, fourteen memberships were cancelled and one member was cryopreserved. Overall, there was a net loss of eleven members in August.

Applicant Statistics
Alcor had 51 applicants for membership. Twelve new applicants were added, four applicants were converted to members and no applicants were cancelled resulting in net a gain of eight applicants in August.

Information Packet Statistics
Alcor received 79 info pack requests in August. Fifteen were handed out during facility tours or from special request. The average total of 109 info packs sent per month in 2011 compares to 199 in 2010. The full Information Packet is now available online.

Southern California CryoFeast 2011

You’re invited to the Southern California 11/11/11 CryoFeast!!

Southern California members (and anyone else who’d like to attend) are invited to this year’s CryoFeast on 11/11/11.  We will be kicking off the holiday season with a party for Alcor members and their family and friends in Newport Beach, CA

Date: Friday November 11, 2011
Time: 7:00 PM to 11:11 PM

So please, mark it on your calendar if you will be in the Newport Beach area on 11/11/11. However, attendance will be by R.S.V.P. only so you may confirm by emailing Dr. Kat Cotter at katcotter@gmail.com and she will send you the address and all the details.

Report on 2011 Strategic Meeting

Alcor 2011 Strategic Meeting

On Saturday, September 10, 2011, Alcor held its Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors. The meeting was attended by all directors, seven in person and one by teleconference and using Skype. In addition to the public Annual Meeting, the directors, the president, and (for some sessions) several other participants, spent Friday afternoon and after dinner, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning engaged in a private Strategic Meeting.

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, PhD, Michael Riskin, PhD, CPA, Michael Seidl, PhD, Tim Shavers, J.D., Brian Wowk, PhD, and officers Max More, PhD (President) and R. Michael Perry, PhD (Secretary and Treasurer), were carried forward for another year.

Alcor’s Board of Directors is self-perpetuating according to Alcor’s bylaws. There was some discussion of bringing onto the Board a ninth director and of possible candidates should one of the existing eight need to be replaced. Among the most desirable skills in such a person would be expertise and credentials in accounting, medicine or cryobiology, fund raising, public relations, and business.

There was extensive discussion of the problem of member underfunding. A discussion document is being prepared for publication later this month. Following its publication, there will be a 3-month discussion period before a decision is made to implement any specific proposal.

Alcor’s operations budget ran a surplus in 2011 due to several hundred thousand dollars of unanticipated and nonrecurring revenue from case funding and bequests. These funds will be used to replenish Alcor’s Reserve Fund, which was significantly depleted in the years prior to Alcor’s recent dues increases.

The operations budget is expected to be balanced until 2014 due to revenue from the LEF/Miller/Thorp grant, which expires at the end of 2013. A deficit anticipated in 2014 (based on zero cases) is believed to be manageable through cost savings and other measures to be implemented in 2013 and/or 2014.

There are to be no increases in dues, CMS fees, or cryopreservation minimums in 2012. An increase in the whole body minimum is under discussion for 2013. There may be some revenue-neutral adjustments to Alcor dues discounts. This is still under discussion.

The portions of cryopreservation funding allocated to CMS will be increased from $20K to $30K for whole body, and from $15K to $25K for neuro without any associated increase in minimums. We believe this new allocation better reflects our costs and will support our efforts to continually improve standby services.

In 2010 a decision was made to seek legal segregation and protection of $3.5 million of funds that Alcor has been treating as an Endowment. The intention is to insulate the funds from liability, and legally enshrine Alcor’s policy of limiting withdrawals to 2% per year. Director and attorney Michael Seidl provided the board with an update of his investigations of options to do this, which include either a structure similar to Alcor’s Patient Care Trust or establishment of a separate 501(c)3 organization if tax-exempt status can be obtained.

An Alcor 40th anniversary conference in late 2012 is being considered.

Alcor will be attempting to deploy a capability for limited field neuro cryoprotection with M22 vitrification solution for dry ice shipment for some overseas cases. There was considerable discussion of logistics issues and personnel to improve response capabilities in Europe.

There was a presentation by Suspended Animation, Inc. (SA) and some of their contract medical personnel at the Strategic Meeting. SA now has a network of cardiothoracic surgeons and clinical perfusionists that they will be attempting to deploy for all their cases. Alcor adopted a policy of attempting to use SA for all Alcor cases in the continental U.S. outside of Arizona for which they are available and for which their services are clinically indicated. Alcor staff and ACT teams will still be used as emergency first responders. Aaron Drake may sometimes accompany the SA team. Catherine Baldwin was added to the Alcor Deployment Committee and made an advisor to the Alcor Board.

Next year’s meeting is scheduled for September 7 to 9, 2012.

Acknowledgments
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 in 2008 that expired earlier this year, apart from the portion directed at funding the CEO position.

Austin TX CryoFeast 2011

This year’s Alcor CryoFest will be held Saturday, November 26th at 2:30pm in South Austin at the home of Alcor President Max More and Humanity+ Chair Natasha Vita-More.  This Thanksgiving themed get-together is for Texas area cryonicists and life extension enthusiasts. We are delighted that this CryoFeast looks to include not only Alcor members and other cryonicists, but also Humanity+ members, life extensionists, and others interested in the field of human enhancement and life expansion.  Feel free to share this invitation with anyone who you think may be interested.

A short meeting will also take place at the CryoFeast for people who are interested in learning more about cryonics but have not yet set up arrangements with a cryonics organization. In the past people have attended from Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, from all over Texas, to reconnect, meet new people, and learn about developments in the cryonics field. 

Attendees are only asked to bring a favorite dish or drink they would like to share and to RSVP.

RSVP to Immortality Institute Director and Alcor volunteer Shannon Vyff by email: shannonvyff@yahoo.com, or by text or phone: (806) 445-6417  When you RSVP, please include what sort of main, side or dessert dish you will bring and she will get back to you with the address to the CryoFeast location.  Also please list the number in your party and ages of any children who will be accompanying you. Shannon will be setting up a cryonics Q&A session for the children and coordinating who is coming to the CryoFeast as well as what they are contributing.