My journey into scientifically and medically unexplained diseases began in Colorado. When I was a 20-year-old undergraduate student I landed a work-study job at the CDC Vector Borne Diseases Branch in Fort Collins. Incredibly, I was working with some of the top disease detectives in the world. It was there I learned how powerful molecular technologies could be used to track and diagnose many unexplained public health maladies. I was hooked and knew I wanted to use my microbiology and virology training to help people.
After 10 years of graduate work, I returned to CDC Atlanta and jumped at the chance to lead a team to identify novel pathogens and diagnostic markers for chronic fatigue syndrome (now called ME/CFS). My team at CDC had a number of remarkable firsts including using genomic technology on a population scale, openly sharing BIG DATA sets with other institutions and investigators, and conducting the first and to date only CFS computational challenge. I took a 7-year hiatus from laboratory-based research to establish and direct a competitive research program for The CFIDS Association of America. During this time we sponsored two funding opportunities, invested $1.2 million in twelve grants, and recruited several top scientists into the field of ME/CFS research.
In the fall of 2010 Dr. Lucinda Bateman invited me to present at the annual OFFER meeting. The room was packed with patients, their families and friends. I spoke about the desperate need for diagnostic tests and treatments for ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia patients. After my talk a man came up to me, he was crying and said my talk gave him hope for his sick daughter. He called me a “Hope Salesman”. He was genuine and meant this as a kindness, but “Hope Salesman” hit me like a sucker punch. To me, hope is only good when it is tangible.
Since that day, I have dedicated much of my life to harnessing the scientific know-how and cutting edge technology to diagnosis and treat ME/CFS… To bring something tangible to the hope of so many.
I am honored and humbled to back in the trenches doing research with Dr. Lucinda Bateman, her incredible staff, and dedicated volunteer Board of Directors. Together with hundreds of empowered patients we are partnering with top scientists and innovators to advance research and improve clinical care.
See a list of papers Dr. Vernon has written and co-authored HERE