Why I am not going to “Francophile” my Facebook status…

Over the past 24 hours or so I have watched the world “Francophile” itself in support and recognition of the awful events in Paris. Monuments have been illuminated in red-white-blue and Facebook profiles now consist of once familiar friends peering out between ribbons of colour.

Story Bridge in Brisbane, illuminated in solidarity.

The Story Bridge in Brisbane tonight, illuminated in solidarity.

I am very fond of France. I have many French friends, wonderful memories and few could argue against Paris being truly one of the iconic cities of the World. Indeed, Paris is one of those incredibly special cities that simply cannot belong to just France, it really belongs to people everywhere. Thus, when such unthinkable acts of terror are committed, they are committed against us all.

The problem is that to give credence to ISIS, to call the Paris atrocity an “act of war”, is to do nothing more than further entrench the notion of ISIS’ caliphate (statehood). Only one sovereign entity’s act of aggression against another can establish an “act of war”. By determining those innocent lives lost to be an “act of war”, we simply give ISIS what they want : legitimacy, and implied sovereignty.

Moreover, despite the awful events in Paris, there was no less tragic loss of life in Lebanon, in Kenya. But we did not stop and mourn for those lives because they did not fit within our mental “Champs- Élysées”, the perfect and idyllic boulevards of our western minds. We did not paint our faces those colours. We have not owned the fact that the turmoil and instability in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, is the direct result of decades of self-interested meddling, artificial borders drawn across tribal boundaries and covertly-financed (and not so covert) bipartisanship. We probably didn’t create it, but we made it worse. A lot worse. Those innocent people in Paris didn’t deserve to die – but it can also not be said that there is never a consequence to our actions. For example, it cannot be said that when our own youth flock to Syria to join the ranks of ISIS, that we were not responsible for youth disengagement, for unemployment, for lack of opportunity in our own countries.

We should be defiant, be we should also take responsibility.

This even extends to the idea that we would somehow attempt to “demean” our oppressors by calling them “Daesh“, like taunting a bully in the playground. It is a dangerous game. It is one thing to stoically go on with life and refuse to alter our daily lives in response to terrorism (correctly so), but it is another to mock one’s enemy.

The purpose of this commentary is not to attribute recognition to ISIS. Although, in my opinion, to pretend that it is an artifice is a huge mistake. Similarly, to reduce ISIS to merely a violent hybrid of religious fundamentalism and terrorism is also a mistake, a gross simplification. In the 21st century, we are being forced to reconsider what statehood means and how we respond to “acts of war”. It started with 9/11 and it is – tragically – far from over with Paris (#2).

This is why I will not change my Facebook profile to “tricolour”. Defiance and mourning for our freedom should be muted, and devoid of banners. Only terrorists wave banners, and I personally cannot bear to change the hue of my face again tomorrow.


 

The (now) iconic feature image by Jean Jullien…

 

One Hundred Hours of Islam

The last month has been an absolute blur of activity, between travel, getting a couple of new business ventures off the ground and the anticipated arrival of kid#2. After much negotiation with my wife and the establishment of an agreed cut-off date by which I was to be home and “at service”, I decided a few weeks ago to do a last “tour” to try and tie up some loose ends around my business activities. The usual sort of “10 countries in 9 days” trip. I spent 3 nights in a hotel room and the rest sleeping on planes.

Fun fun fun.

One of the things that frustrates me about this kind of business travel is that you never spend enough time in a country to really get to know it. Yet on this last trip, I had a very unique experience that I think could only have come from such a fleeting and condensed journey. The middle portion of my manic trip was a series of meetings in Geneva/Lausanne, Berlin, Beirut and Kuala Lumpur. A slightly eclectic selection of cities but then my business activities are somewhat eclectic too. I had meetings in all locations roughly within a period of 100 hours (including travel) which left me with a very blurred but interesting juxtaposition of perceptions about how the world is changing.

Starting in Switzerland – I think it is fair to say that although Geneva prides itself on being “multicultural” it is still quintessentially European. If Geneva is “Europe” then Lausanne is “Swiss” – quaint, clean, controlled and somewhat monocultural. About the most exotic thing you will find in Lausanne is the Turkish or Lebanese guy managing the Doner kebab stand at the train station. I’m not saying that Switzerland fundamentally has a diversity issue (or that Lausanne isn’t incredibly pretty) – I’m just saying that the Swiss would rather keep it – er… Swiss.

Nothing but Alpenhorns and Muesli here....

Nothing but Alpenhorns and Muesli here….

Moving ahead to Berlin, a few hours in the centre of the city provided a few insights into what the German government is currently dealing with in terms of refugee crisis. I saw a lot of Muslim families on the streets, a lot of begging and a lot of people that looked pretty “fresh” off the train from Eastern Europe. I’ve been to Berlin many times over the years and the change was palpable, including the articulation of concern by residents. I think it’s fair to say that Germany proved its international citizenship with a truly disproportionate intake from the Syrian crisis, but integration is going to be a challenging process if makeshift camps in central Berlin are anything to go by.

A Minaret, Berliner-style?

A Minaret, Berliner-style?

Then moving on to Lebanon. Driving through Hezbollah-controlled districts around Beirut Airport provided a stark reminder that this is a country with incredibly fractured rule and not a lot of stability. Motoring through military checkpoints representing different political “factions” makes you realise that it doesn’t take much to trigger unrest, indeed much of the city centre was cordoned off due to large-scale protests and riots. Although the newly rebuilt centre of Beirut was relatively peaceful, there was still an atmosphere of tension. A lot of military presence and deserted cafes. In Beirut, 1/3 of the population is a refugee from somewhere. Syrians continue to flood over the border.

Plenty of reminders that this is a city on the edge of a war zone, from a military checkpoints, to freshly bombed buildings stopping traffic. Beirut is a city with plenty of scars, and plenty of different occupiers.

Plenty of reminders that this is a city on the edge of a war zone, from a military checkpoints, to freshly bombed buildings stopping traffic. Beirut is a city with plenty of scars, and plenty of different occupiers.

Finally – on to Kuala Lumpur, where the Islamic world meets capitalism. KL is fast-moving and prosperous, notwithstanding a recent (significant) currency devaluation and a fair amount of economic turbulence. Although far from the Mediterranean outskirts of Europe, KL seemed oblivious to the plight of their Syrian brethern, with Muslim Malaysians seemingly willing to die for the glory of the Hajj but perhaps lacking the true embrace of Islamic brotherhood. It was not without international provocation that countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia took responsibility for their role in the refugee crisis but even as recently as last week, Malaysia has only committed to a mere 3,000 refugees over three years.

Of course Australia’s response was hardly stellar either … but compared to this…

Nothing but refugee-free prosperity here, folks... (well, except a bit of afternoon rain)

Nothing but refugee-free prosperity here, folks… (well, except a bit of afternoon rain)

CNN has started referring to some refugees as “economic migrants“, reflective of the serious Syrian “brain drain”, something that will no doubt hamper the ability for the country to rebuild itself anytime in the near future. But whether an economic migrant or a true refugee fleeing unimaginable violence, the truth is that people are taking huge risks to get to a better place, and they aren’t turning to the rest of the Islamic world for that future. Syrians see a future in the west – in Canada, USA, Germany, Australia – not UAE, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia or even beautiful Malaysia. Indeed, other than throw cash at the problem, Saudi/UAE have done shamefully little.

My “100 hours of Islam” reinforced this perception. Sunni-Shi’a tension not only poisons the political tension in Syria, it also underpins the migration pattern of refugees – political or economic. The big question is whether “we” can meaningfully integrate Syria’s diaspora in a way that offers peace and stability, or whether a generation from now we will just have one more failed, isolated and angry sub-culture.

Announcing : “The Long Tail”

Before you get too concerned, I am still on “gardening leave”.

But I’m also getting bored. Most of the house DIY tasks are done, the roof garden looks great. I fixed just about everything that needed fixing and then I fixed some things that didn’t need fixing (which, now also need to be fixed). Too many idle hours makes me antsy and I finally had to do something about it.

After the flack I got from my last couple of posts, I decided that I would take Australian life sciences commentary out of this blog. Anyhow, most of you reading this are not Australian and don’t care anyhow about what a bunch of goofy antipodeans are doing in their labs. Instead I have launched a new blog – “The Long Tail.” Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going away, you can still read about me, mostly talking about myself (ha ha).

I’ve been thinking about doing this site for a long time, so I hope you enjoy it. It’s not very pretty yet but it will get better with time.

Like a fine Barossa shiraz … style and substance…

The “poster child” for why ASX biopharma stinks

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of any affiliated companies or organizations.

Australia could be a great place to commercialize biopharmaceutical research. We have top institutions, we punch above our weight in publication citations in leading journals and number of pretty decent drugs have been born from the minds of Australian researchers. Sure venture capital is a bit light-on and the enthusiasm level of government policy around life sciences waxes and wanes… but hey, we have the ASX, right? And over a 100 small-cap healthcare/life sciences companies that are listed and capable of accessing public cash.

If you really believe in biotech, you might even take the position that all biotech companies (and for that matter, cleantech, energy, etc. – anything that is capital intensive) should go public as soon as possible. Providing you have an efficient market, good analyst coverage and decent disclosure regulations, the wheat from the chaff should get separated pretty quickly.

Right?

Wrong. Probably.

I have watched with great amusement over the past few days as Cynata’s (ASX: CYP) share price has truly rocketed along (200+ %). Admittedly, if you are an illiquid, “penny” stock to begin with, then any share movement can be dramatic. Even existing investors / directors purchasing (or dumping) stock can move the needle pretty spectacularly. But this is a truly remarkable company and should be a poster child for extreme caution, especially for retail investors thinking about investing in microcap ASX biotech. I’m not saying “don’t”, I am saying “think carefully.”

For those of you reading this post who are not scientifically trained, let me tell you three important pieces of information about the development of new healthcare technologies, particularly therapeutics. These are general statements that apply to all biotech companies.

1) There is nothing remarkable about studying a new technology in animal models. It is not a milestone. It is not an accomplishment. It is simply a part of developing a new product. Any company that issues a press release that it is conducting animal studies, should be strenuously avoided. Not because it isn’t important – it is – but because it tells you nothing whatsoever about the quality of the technology. In fact, it may imply that the technology has been insufficiently validated before going into commercial development.

2) Engaging a Contract Research Organization (CRO) is not a milestone. A CRO is a service provider. It is the biotech equivalent of signing a cable television service. It is humdrum. It is uninteresting. It is a purely vanilla process. It does not imply any commercial or technology competency whatsoever, except the ability to receive an email and place a signature on a piece of paper. It is an entirely forward looking statement.

3) Scientific validation is not a statement of “fact” to be reported in a press release – it is a peer reviewed process involving real data under controlled conditions. It means that the science was able to be reproduced independent of the originator/inventor, and that it has been published in a fashion that withstands expert scrutiny.

(Remarkably the research that “validated” the Cynata Cymerus technology was essentially conducted at the institution from which the technology was licensed. I’m sorry, but that is not scientific validation by any metric, and it is not newsworthy. It also cannot be considered “validated” when the inventor and key members of the “validation team” hold stock in the company commercializing the technology.)

In short, investors should be incredibly wary of throwing their money at a company that makes these kinds of public claims and disclosures as the basis of “progress”. Indeed, it is my opinion that generally speaking, ASX continuous disclosure rules may even require some reconsideration for biotech because an awful lot of irrelevant information gets channeled as “major news” and the non-expert investor can easily get sucked in.

Does any of this actually matter? (Source: ASX)

Does any of this actually matter? (Source: ASX)

My specific analysis of Cynata?

Firstly, I am extremely disappointed by the nature of the analyst coverage that has been dedicated to this security. In a typical example, there is absolutely no detailed or meaningful scientific claims that are relevant to the security under coverage or any identifiable product pipeline. There are tenuous analogies (for example, antibody drugs) and ridiculously generalized statements (that “Nobel prizes are being awarded”) that simply tell you nothing whatsoever about the investment thesis of the company. Such coverage may or may not elucidate an impression about the state of the market, but as for the company – it is a wholly irrelevant analysis. Retail customers see this type of coverage involving respectable firm names (and high-caliber scientific publications in the footnote) and assume that it is robust.

It is not. Recent analyst recommendations are even more breezily formulated. Incidentally, I can also assure you that no Nobel prizes have been awarded for Cynata’s technology.

The second amazing thing about Cynta are the assertions around intellectual property (IP). The jewel in the crown of the Cynata IP “portfolio” is allegedly the US patent 7,615,374 in-licensed from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), a patent that was magically discovered by the founders of Cynata. I can’t authoritatively tell you too much about this patent, but let me tell you about WARF (all public domain).

WARF holds one of the most prestigious, thought-leading and impressive intellectual property portfolios in the field of stem cells, mainly because much groundbreaking work in regenerative medicine was accomplished at UW, Madison. The WARF patents are also among the most highly visible, litigated and “picked over” patent portfolios in the world of regenerative medicine and stem cell research. It is worth noting that some of the key litigation around WARF patents recently came to a remarkable conclusion, illustrating not only the complexity of this field but the money at stake for the winner and the purse that is required to maintain a footing.

Now, forget for a moment that you may or may not know about biotech. Forget the science. Forget the clinical development. Just ask yourself this simple question – if millions of dollars have been spent by the finest global biopharmaceutical companies trawling, litigating and fighting over fundamental stem cell technology in US Supreme Courts, might it not be too good to be true that a couple of Aussie entrepreneurs “stumbled” over an undiscovered (but yet published) biotech treasure trove? Might this not raise an eyebrow or at least induce the sensible investor to ask a few more questions? Moreover, if it really is a game-changer, then why was it licensed to a company with a negligible balance sheet and limited means to develop it?

If you were the prestigious WARF (who can and does partner with anyone they wish), wouldn’t you want to reap the benefits of a global biopharmaceutical company taking the technology forward with a full head of steam (and writing big royalty/milestone checks along the way)? Or at the very least, spinning out the next $Bn company directly?

Third – let’s talk about practical realities. Ignoring any patent continuations or international prosecution that may be happening in the background for the 7,615,374 patent, the priority date for the patent is late 2007. This means that the life-span of the patent in largest global healthcare market is almost half over and by the time anyone gets a commercial drug out to the marketplace that might benefit from this manufacturing technology, it’s basically going to be an irrelevant patent (note: developing a drug that might infringe a manufacturing patent is protected by “safe harbor” research laws in most commercially-important jurisdictions). This is probably one of the main reasons why this technology could be snapped up without any real commercial burden to a licensee.

Essentially … it is quite possibly a worthless patent, especially considering the patent “stack” that would be required to take a cell therapy to market these days (if you want to see how messy and money-consuming this space is, just look at what is happening with CAR-T cell therapies).

Moreover, the 7,615,374 patent is effectively a “process” patent. That is, it is a patent that describes a “recipe” for culturing (growing) a certain class of cells (that may or may not, incidentally, have any clinical value). Put into layman’s terms, it is not a patent for THE chocolate cake, it is a patent for the process of making A particular type of chocolate cake. Anyone who has ever baked a cake knows that you can swap butter for margarine or oil, you can substitute self-raising flour for plain flower with baking soda / baking powder. Hell, you don’t even need flour!

That is the problem with the 7,615,374 patent, it is able to be almost trivially “invented around” in order to achieve the same outcome. Read it, including the public-domain patent analytics, it’s not an intellectual stretch even for the uninitiated.

Finally, any investor in biotechnology should be sensitive about companies that make aggressive marketing claims in early, even pre-clinical, product development. I was very concerned, verging on disgusted, by the slick marketing claims “implied” by Regeneus‘ (ASX: RGS) through their technology promotion with the National Rugby League. Finally, people had the gumption to protest what was a blatantly unethical strategy for building consumer traction for a completely unvalidated (and possibly even ineffectual) clinical procedure. Building investor awareness demands a similar level of sensitivity, especially for a public company, and Cynata’s marketing position warrants pause. Any company that makes therapeutic claims that are not actionable for patients, or accessible via formal clinical trials, any time in the near future (especially on a corporate website) should be approached with extreme caution as an investment prospect.

To conclude – on the one hand, I have a grudging admiration for the entrepreneurial spirit that has been demonstrated by the Cynata team, and they have some very bright and accomplished people. I try to ignore the fact that the scientific advisory board (SAB) is chaired by an electrical engineer, rather than an immunologist or an expert in regenerative medicine, but then I was originally trained as an electrical engineer myself, so that would just make me a hypocrite (though I would never have the gumption to chair an SAB). I also try to ignore the fact that the leadership team has very limited experience in the manufacturing of cell therapies – hey, good analysts always look at the overall team, right?

On the other hand, I want to see Australian clinical science produce public companies that show peer-reviewed data, a strong ethos of scientific accountability and become part of the desirable investment bedrock of the ASX. I have previously reported my opinion that we have too many zombie (i.e. crap) life sciences companies on the ASX. The more “hollow chocolate bunnies” we allow to attract investor capital, the harder it will be for the really good ideas to move forward and flourish.

Making a quick buck in the short term isn’t the solution to long-term success for the industry.

Caveat Emptor.

Hollow Chocolate Bunny

Cynata : A hollow chocolate bunny? You decide.

Notes:

1) Hollow-chocolate bunny image sourced from here)

2) The beautiful feature image of a neuron derived from a human embryonic stem cell was sampled from the work by Sharona Even-Ram, Ph.D., of Hadassah University Hospital’s Goldyne Savad Institute of Gene Therapy in Jerusalem

 

In-Laws, Fish and Founder CEOs

This week marked a major event in my life. I parted company with ImaginAb.

For many people, it will be a very big surprise, knowing how passionate and committed I am to the company. I co-founded the company in October 2007 with Anna Wu and Rob Reiter, while I was an entrepreneur-in-residence at UCLA Medical School. From the minute I met Anna, I knew she was special and I consider the day that the three of us co-founded ImaginAb, to be one of the great days of my life.

As always in these circumstances, there will be rumor and speculation. Actually, it was a mutual decision and my parting is truly amicable and – as you may have gathered from the implication of the title of this post – entirely necessary for the future development and success of the company. I chose this title because of the pun that after two (or three) days, both in-laws (especially mother-in-laws) and fish start to “stink”. I think this is an apt analogy to a fact of life that many first-time entrepreneurs don’t really think about.

The truth is, like fish, the majority of Founder CEOs have a limited shelf-life. Not all, but most. In my experience, that shelf-life is somewhere between 3 and 5 years. Therefore I think at roughly 7.5 years of service, I did ok. For all you budding start-up CEOs out there that aspire to see your company go all the way from an infant idea to a magnificent $Bn business, not only be prepared to “think again”, but embrace a necessary reality of corporate development. No CEO really goes from the beginning to the “end” – not even “Zuck” (who we all know doesn’t really run Facebook anyhow). There will be skeptics amongst you, naysayers that simply presume that this blog entry is nothing more than a poorly contrived defensive mechanism to publicly smooth over a career speed-bump (and you may be right). You might choose to argue that real talent persists and goes the distance, but I beg to differ.

Why?

Because over many years I have come to understand that at each stage in the development of an organization, a specific set of skills and experience is required, and a distinct mind-set towards organizational leadership. At this point in my career, I have tremendous experience and capability of launching exciting new companies. ImaginAb is a great company, one of several that I have started in my career. But personally speaking, I find that as a “start-up” company moves to a “grown up” company and toward more sophisticated commercial inflection points, it inevitably needs to transition from a conceptual and relationship-driven leadership framework to a more process-oriented struture. The intrinsic flexibility of a startup must be replaced with better planning, corporate governance and risk management. At this stage of development, my performance and leadership efficacy tends to decrease.

So does my enjoyment.

In the case of ImaginAb, over the last 12 months not only did I somewhat reach my “Peter Principle” as the organization become more complex and our product development started to hit later-stage clinical milestones, but my own lack of enjoyment of my job began to impact my efficacy as CEO. It also hugely impacted my home life, my marriage and my friendships.

In my opinion, it is a sensitive and sophisticated Board and Investor team that can consider the holistic complexity of a portfolio company CEO and evaluate the multiple facets of life that are requisite for both company success and personal happiness. I am thus extremely grateful to have been blessed with such a team, and I cannot express my appreciation enough to Novartis Venture Fund, Merieux Developpment, Cycad and Nextech Invest, who have been terrific partners over the years. I’d also like to thank my co-founders and the entire ImaginAb team for the support, respect and sensitivity that has been afforded to me during this transition.

To be clear, I don’t mean to diminish my accomplishments at ImaginAb with this somewhat candid assessment of my own performance. I am not that humble. Under my leadership, we raised close to $50m in venture capital and non-dilutive funding, took several antibody immunoconjugates to the clinic and over 30 “big pharma” collaborations over the years. Our lead product for prostate cancer – a game changer in my view – is in advanced clinical development and showing beautiful data. ImaginAb’s strategy for immune-oncology has the potential to be transformative to medicine, and is certainly starting to capture the attention of major players in the space. We launched many important academic collaborations and established footprints in Singapore and Japan. The next leader of the company will have some great building blocks – and a phenomenally talented team – to work with, to take the company to the next level.

A team, incidentally, that I will miss every single day.

As for me, I have no idea what is next. The coming weeks will be a busy handover time and I am still trying to comprehend how to even begin to change my identity. For those of you that understand that an entrepreneur eats, sleeps and breathes the “venture”, you know that I am going to feel a sense of loss, disorientation, even pain. I mean, when I have to introduce myself at a cocktail party, what will I say? Who am I now? What is my purpose?

I’ve been here before and, if I am honest with you, it sucks.

At a time like this, I am grateful that I am now also a husband and a father. Last time I was in this situation, I did not have this “other” hugely meaningful identity. Perhaps the solution is to focus on being better at those things for a while. They have certainly been neglected.

House husband? Hmmmm…

If this ugly sucker is a Mother-in-Law Fish, I wonder what a Founder-CEO-Fish looks like?

If this ugly sucker is a Mother-in-Law Fish, I wonder what a Founder-CEO-Fish looks like?

Detour#1 – India

In a previous post, I committed to myself that that I would occasionally allow life detours. This is #1 for 2015.

I want to state from the outset, that I probably annoyed my wife. I know I left home at a time when Max wasn’t sleeping very well and Zhenya was going to be taking the brunt of some sleepless nights. One of my colleagues sourly commented on my “lack of availability” at the end of last week. I know my team could have used me around when a few intense deliverables were due. But instead, late last week, I went to a wedding.

A Bollywood wedding.

Last year a dear friend of mine invited me to a wedding in India. Not his wedding, but his son’s wedding (the “son” – to protect his identity – is a super guy in his own right) but I really went because Daddio invited me. I am sure I could have said no without offence. I know for sure that there were far more important and special people invited than me (i.e. a very large and interesting family). But I went because I think an Indian wedding is a life experience that should be struck off the bucket list, and even better if that experience comes from nice people that you genuinely like.

These are very nice people.

So, I skedaddled to Bangalore for the weekend. I arrived at my hotel and was immediately “bindied” (first image, below). An hour or so after this happened, I Skyped Max and he asked me “Dadda, do you have an ‘owie’ on your head?” Nope. That red smear on my forehead is apparently a “welcome blessing.” Frankly, the young lady that crouched down and marked my forehead was absolutely stunning and the Catholic in me momentarily hybridized this velvet-skinned specimen of loveliness rubbing ochre on my forehead, with the vague echo of  some sort of ecclesiastical ritual. A kind of Hindu baptism. Rowdy. I don’t mind saying it left me slightly cross-eyed.

Geddit Indiya...

Geddit Indiya…

I settled into my hotel in Bangalore around mid-afternoon as it was starting to get hot and sweaty, and I am not just talking about me. My immediate item of business was to go out and find a Sherwani, the traditional Indian festive dress. This was less easy than I had hoped, mainly because of my “western” frame and stature (i.e. chubbiness). I went to a dozen hole-in-the-wall boutiques selling traditional men’s clothing, with no luck. Nothing really fit me, especially around the midriff. Eventually, I found an enterprising tailor who exclaimed “NO problems, Mr. Chris, we can expand, we can expand!” (accompanied by the necessary side-to-side head waggles).

This is my hero:

The Grand Tailor of Bangalore

The Grand Tailor of Bangalore

A couple of hours later, I walked out with a lot of bling…

bling

The wedding was insane. Rituals. Food. Dancing. When I caught my 2:50am flight to Paris, I was tired but happy. Not drunk though – it’s hard to get hammered at an Indian wedding. Lassi (yoghurt drink) and gavathi chaha (lemongrass tea) is hardly conducive to a crazy, wild night. Unsurprisingly I arrived feeling surprisingly fresh.

I was grateful to be hangover-free…

The nicest thing about the wedding was that it was the union between a high-gotra Brahmin and a north-African Muslim woman. They are such a beautiful couple, but also a testimony to the fact that education and prosperity can overcome any religious difference. Every time our politicians cut funding to education, what they are really doing is making a social pact that they will foster intolerance and prevent the union of people who would be otherwise perfect for each other.

Inspiring.