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Published On: Sat, Aug 5th, 2017

Discovery’s ‘First In Human’ with ‘Big Bang Theory’ star Jim Parsons airs August 10

Just miles from the nation’s capital, on the campus of the revered National Institutes of Health, sits the Clinical Center, or Building 10: the largest hospital in the world devoted solely to medical research. The building houses the brilliant minds and courageous patients that enroll in “First in Human” clinical trials. Wading into uncharted medical territory in the hopes of discovering scientific breakthroughs, these early, highly experimental – and at times risky tests – are all in an effort to develop new, breakthrough treatments for patients suffering from currently untreatable diseases and conditions.

Narrated and executive produced by Emmy,® Golden Globe®, and Critics Choice® winning actor Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory,”  “Hidden Figures,”)  FIRST IN HUMAN is a three-part, six-hour medical documentary series taking viewers inside the crucial beginning phase of scientific research. The powerful series follows four diverse patients as they participate in a “First in Human” trial – the initial time when a new therapy is tested in humans, revealing the quiet heroism of both doctors and patients. If successful, the next chapter of medicine is written.  The series, directed by Emmy® winner John Hoffman and executive produced by Hoffman and Emmy® winner Dyllan McGee, begins airing August 10 at 9pm ET/PT exclusively on Discovery.

Dr. Fry talks to Bo Cooper about the upcoming CAR T cell protocol “First in Human” photo/ courtesy of Discovery Channel

FIRST IN HUMAN represents the first time cameras have embedded in Building 10 and followed first-in-human patients throughout their entire trial. This unique access is the product of Hoffman’s nearly twenty years of filmmaking in partnership with the NIH on various award-winning projects exploring such issues as obesity, Alzheimer’s, sleep, as well as drug and alcohol addiction.

From the first use of chemotherapy for cancer, initial treatments for HIV/AIDS, and lithium for depression, Building 10 has been ground zero to many medical breakthroughs. While unassuming, this building houses what has been arguably the most exciting and innovative work for over sixty years.  Some of the greatest minds in medicine have spent their careers at Building 10, including Steven Rosenberg, MD, who in 1985 cured the first patient of cancer with immunotherapy – the training of one’s own immune system to fight his/her cancer.

Patients treated in Building 10 are volunteering to be part of medical research. They receive care at no expense, and receive no guarantee that they will benefit from it – all in the name of advancing medicine.  Due to the risky nature of the trials in Building 10, the doctors can often only partner with patients who have exhausted all the standard options the medical establishment has to offer. “Virtually every patient that we treat have been told by their home doctors, I’m sorry, there’s nothing in modern medicine that can help you today,” explains Dr. Rosenberg. “The NIH exists to create tomorrow’s medicine.”

“It’s a powerful thing to consider if you are in a circumstance where some medical intervention has been offered to you that’s provided some benefit,” said Dr. Francis Collins, MD, PHD, Director, NIH. “It came from all those other people who were part of the studies that ultimately proved there’s a standard of care here and it helped you. They’re your ancestors in a certain way – some of them lived, some of them died.  All of those individuals who you’ve never met, whose willingness to take a chance and to be part of something – maybe something right here in Building 10 – has now led to an outcome that might save your life.”

Despite suffering from remarkably different diseases, each patient ventures to Building 10 – also nicknamed the “House of Hope” – for their final chance at survival.  As mother of three, Anita McAllister who was diagnosed with melanoma explains, “I have heard of this place referred to as The National Institutes of Hope. They’re curing people of melanoma. To know that I can have the hope for that for myself as well um…it’s very humbling.”

McAllister’s doctor, Stephanie Goff, MD, describes how special even the layout of Building 10 making it feel like this is truly a team effort between patient, doctor, and families.  “Building 10 is incredibly unique. We have labs right next to patient floors,” explains Dr. Goff.  “That’s symbolic of the work that we can do here. We can go back and forth between bench to bedside in a way that, that most people just talk about.”

While each patient comes to Building 10 for their own diagnosis, they learn that they are also participating in history in the making.  Dr. John Tisdale, a hematologist, has spent the last two decades searching for a cure for sickle cell disease.  The revolutionary work he has been doing in Building 10 for patients suffering from sickle cell disease could help thousands of people suffering around the world.  It is one of the reasons he decided to be a research doctor.  “I thought I could do more as a research doctor,” explains Dr. Tisdale to his patient Deidra Flowers-Williams.  “..if this works…then people read about it and then they use the same kind of treatment wherever they are. And the reach is farther than just you.”

FIRST IN HUMAN is produced by McGee Media for Discovery Channel.  The series is directed by John Hoffman; produced by, John Hoffman, Beth Wichterich, and Michael Epstein; narrated by, Jim Parsons; executive producers Dyllan McGee, Jim Parsons, Todd Spiewak, and Eric Norsoph; producer, Jon Bardin; supervising producer, Stacia Thompson; senior editor, Adriana Pacheco; director of photography, Simon Schneider. For Discovery Channel, supervising producer, Jon Bardin; executive producer, John Hoffman.

 

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