Image for post
Image for post
A likely 2020 electoral map.

And the end of American Exceptionalism.


The upcoming 2020 election will be bitterly fought, attracting more campaign dollars and aggressive tactics than any in US history. The result is a forgone conclusion: Mr. Trump will lose Wisconsin, Florida, or Michigan, by a small but meaningful margin, tilting the electoral college to Joe Biden and deciding the result. He will lose the popular vote in a landslide.

President Trump has spent the past 4 months publicly questioning the electoral process, casting doubt on the security of voting by mail (mail-in ballots and absentee ballots are the same thing). He has already stated that he will not necessarily accept the result if he loses. Due to the politicization of the coronavirus pandemic, liberal voters are far more likely than conservatives to mail in their ballots this year. …

Image for post
Image for post
Waltham residents, doing their part.


I am a bicycle commuter. Not one of the cool ones dressed in all black riding a fixed-gear bike, no…one of the guys with the neon and the helmet and the flashing lights. In 2016, rolling through a 3-way intersection at Ames and Broadway in Cambridge, I was pulled over by a police cruiser and received my first ever bicycle moving violation. Naturally, I threw the damn thing away.

Fast forward 6 months. My wife and I are headed north through Ossipee, New Hampshire to visit some friends. Ossipee boasts some of the finest speed traps in New England, with head-snapping speed changes from 55 mph to 35 and back. …

Image for post
Image for post


Career Politicians and Crony Capitalists

It’s official, Joe Biden is the last candidate standing and will likely be running against Donald Trump in 2020. This leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. …

Image for post
Image for post


This is not the end of the world

The new 2019-nCoV virus, which was first reported in China at the end of 2019, will not wipe out humanity. This coronavirus, one of many, first appeared in Wuhan at the beginning of December. A few weeks of delays by city-level Chinese bureaucrats enabled it to spread undetected; by the time it was formally reported, it had likely already infected hundreds of patients who were not yet symptomatic.

The delay in reporting this outbreak would seem suspicious. But in China, where control of information is paramount, it’s hardly surprising. The common narrative, that this virus jumped to humans through an illegal wildlife market, is believable. However, other theories point to the BSL-4 virology research center in the heart of Wuhan. If 2019-nCoV originated there, it’s unlikely anyone wants to bring attention to this fact. …

Image for post
Image for post


Wealth Creation at What Cost?

Rapid economic growth and the creation of new markets is exciting. These modern-day gold rushes can occur when governments relax market-hampering regulations or privatize markets that were previously dominated by public offerings, or when a new product or technology produces new opportunities for value creation and capture. Over the past 20 years China and Silicon Valley have paralleled one another in terms of stratospheric GDP growth and new economic opportunities. But both have illustrated the pitfalls of rapid thoughtless economic expansion.

An autocratic regime focused on growth-at-all-costs in China has blurred lines between government and private enterprise. In parallel, Silicon Valley tech behemoths have flexed their political muscles, extracting concessions and favorable tax treatment from state and local governments. Cultural heritage in both geographies is being destroyed, as diverse communities are replaced with a tired homogeneity. …


(this post is also featured on the LabCentral blog)

Timing is Everything

When we launched Octagon Therapeutics in late 2017, I was convinced that the time was right for a new antibiotic discovery venture. The company was founded on impressive academic pedigree and the management team had known each other for years. Our first program was based on a compelling approach to targeting central metabolism in the most dangerous bacterial pathogens. We had already shown a high level of efficacy in animal infection models and knew our drug was safe in humans.

At the time, 12 of the largest 18 biopharma companies had abandoned all antibiotic development efforts, focusing instead on disease-modifying therapies for chronic diseases or cancer. Rather than a negative signal, we believed this thin development pipeline presented an opportunity for small biotechs to fill the void. Weekly headlines were screaming about the rise of “superbugs,” the multi-drug resistant bacteria that cannot be treated with existing medicines. Pew Trusts had published an extensive report highlighting superbugs as the next leading global cause of death, eventually claiming more lives than all cancers combined. I was convinced that this clear clinical need would result in real reform in the antimicrobial development space, and that larger players would correspondingly re-enter the market, hungry to pick up first-in-class antibiotic programs. …

Image for post
Image for post
A tangled web of credibility and influence for sale. (Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien)


America has long been a leader in charitable giving, and still ranks near the top of the World Giving Index rankings. This is clearly a positive thing. Private gifts are critically important for supplementing public programs that support arts and sciences, education, food accessibility, and civil rights. However, as fallout continues from the school admissions scandal and Jeffrey Epstein’s generous “gifts”, it is important to more closely analyze the American philanthropic tradition.

The good that can be done with large no-strings-attached gifts cannot be understated. Research efforts ongoing at the Koch Institute (anti-environmental industrialists) will lead to new cancer treatments. The Guggenheim can now afford to curate and display priceless works of art in the security of the Sackler Wing (opioid pushers). …


We are coming up on an election year. Candidates are kicking off campaign rallies and fundraisers, and grandstanding about hot-button issues that are sure to resonate with the largest possible number of voters. The best issues are those of “fairness” (whatever that means), as Americans on both ends of the political spectrum can get behind these.

Image for post
Image for post
Aligned on this issue and this issue only.

“Getting away with murder”

One of the few places where Bernie Sanders and Don Trump could sit down and agree with one another is on drug pricing. Both campaigned strongly on this issue in 2016 without real meaningful plans for reducing cost to patients. Trump has famously repeated that drug companies are “getting away with murder” without really specifying what he means. …

Image for post
Image for post
Not a lot of purple districts in 2016.

Why Are We Shocked by the School Admissions Scandal?


The recent college admissions scandal has triggered a fair amount of outrage. More than 50 wealthy parents, including successful investors, executives, and celebrities, have engaged high-priced consultants to get their children into decent schools through bribery and cheating. This clearly crosses a line and charges have been brought. Many of these parents are intelligent, educated, thoughtful people. How could they have decided that this behavior is ethical or acceptable?

There is a systemic problem with the college admissions process; the system has NEVER been merit-based. The concept of prioritizing “legacy applicants” at top tier schools is disgusting, but has existed since the very beginning. At Harvard, the acceptance rate for students with at least one Harvard-graduate parent is around 30%…that’s nearly five times the average acceptance rate of around 6 percent! This doesn’t even begin to consider the effect of perfectly legal “Alumni Giving”. A million dollar “gift” can put your child into a very different applicant pool, although these acceptance numbers are hard to find. Examining the effect that perfectly legal cash contributions and alumni privilege can have on admissions, it’s hardly surprising that some parents would decide that $400,000 paid to an expert “consultant” is no worse than a large donation. …

Image for post
Image for post


Another year has come to an end, and what a year it was! …


Isaac Stoner

Dreamer, thinker, loudmouth. Founder, Octagon Therapeutics, adventurer.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store