The Abigail Alliance is a 501(c)(3) committed to creating wider access to experimental treatments for people with life-threatening illnesses. We promote creative solutions to help patients access investigational therapies outside of trials. We also advocate for faster approval of new treatments that are being provided through pre-approval access programs.

Our History

Abigail on the UVA campus after diagnosis.
(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
The Abigail Alliance was formally incorporated in the state of Virginia in November of 2001. However, the Alliance really started in early March of 2001 when Abigail Burroughs, who had just turned twenty-one, had run out of conventional options in her battle against cancer whle being treated at Johns Hopkins.

Abigail's oncologist urged her to try and try a then-experimental EGFR-targeted drug, C225. The drug has since been approved and is named Erbitux. Abigail's cancer cells had a very high EGFR expression and her oncologist strongly felt the unapproved drug had a significant chance of saving her life.

Abigail was still strong then, so she and her family launched the Abigail Alliance and took a three-pronged approach to gain access to Erbitux. First, we began lobbying two pharmaceutical companies with much vigor to get access to the drug. Then we worked hard and furiously to obtain help from Congress to change the law to make it easier for people like Abigail to access investigational drugs. Finally, we launched a media effort that resulted in numerous stories in the press. As tired and weak as she was, Abigail did multiple newspaper and television interviews.

Abigail died on June 9, 2001, just a week and half after doing an extensive interview with Dale Solly of ABC WJLA TV. Abigail's words in the TV piece echo the Abigail Alliance mission when she said:

Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. von Eschenbach

In 2003, we took then-FDA Commissioner Eschenback to court, arguing that terminally-ill patients have a constitutionally protected right to try experimental medications before the FDA approves them. Specifically, we told the court that the FDA should license drugs for use by terminally ill patients with "desperate diagnoses" after they have completed Phase I testing. If successful, the suit would have eliminated FDA prohibitions on the sale of unapproved drugs, and left the decision in the hands of patients and physicians.

In May 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Abigail Alliance and found that the US Constitution protects the right of terminally ill patients to access treatments that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA requested that the Court of Appeals rehear the case. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals in advance of the March 1 hearing, supporting the FDA's position. ASCO proposed that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to access unapproved medications, and that the court case threatens the cancer clinical trial enterprise.

On March 1, 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reheard the case en banc.

On August 7, 2007, the Court issued an 8-2 decision against the Abigail Alliance, reversing the previous panel decision, thereby upholding the previous court decision that found no constitutional right to unapproved drugs by terminally ill patients.

The case was fully resolved in early 2008 when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the appeal. Their refusal left standing the appellate court decision, which said that patients have no right to "a potentially toxic drug with no proven therapeutic benefit."

Passage of State and Federal Right to Try Laws

Dr. Jim Neely testifies for Right to Try
in Missouri in 2014. (Fox News)
Abigail's story inspired patients to fight for access and advocate for the passage of state and federal right to try laws to help patients access unapproved treatments. In 2014, we helped bring together a coalition of patients, physicians, and legislators whose relentless efforts led to the passage of the nation's first Right to Try laws. Today, 41 states have passed Right to Try laws.

Dr. Jim Neely testifies for Right to Try
in Washington D.C. in 2016. (U.S. Senate)
In 2016, we supported Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) in his tireless campaign to pass a federal Right to Try law. At a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, our close ally Dr. Jim Neely testified for the legislation. By 2017,  the effort had gained significant traction thanks to the support of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The bill was signed into law by President Trump on May 30th, 2018.

The Abigail Alliance continues to move forward advocating for patients that want to try unproven drugs. We continue getting information out to the public and directing terminally-ill patients to reliable sources for further information. We now partner with physicians and drug manufactures to facilitate access to new treatments. We continue to advocate for legislative changes that would create wider and better access to experimental treatments.

Abigail Alliance Founder & President Frank
Burroughs at the Right To Try signing ceremony
w/ patients, advocates, & legislative leaders 

Our Board

Frank Burroughs
Prior to becoming the President of the Abigail Alliance, Frank spent thirty years in the engineering business in managerial roles. Frank was a program manager on various research and development high tech communications projects. Frank’s education and experience in engineering combined with a B.A. degree in Mass Communications has helped with his leadership of the Abigail Alliance. Frank had the joy of twenty-one years of sharing the earthly journey of his daughter Abigail.

Steve Walker
Steve is a very accomplished scientist with a B.A. Geology, Cum Laude and M.S., Marine Science-Geology with an extensive background in U.S. Government regulations.  His work with the Abigail Alliance includes regulatory and legislative efforts, scientific direction, advocacy for patient’s rights before Congress, the administration, and in the media, spokesperson on regulatory and scientific issues, and author of papers, articles and editorials.

Josh Schisler 
Director of Outreach
Prior to taking on his current role with the Abigail Alliance in 2018, Josh spent nearly a decade working in government to advance patient rights legislation. He served in the Missouri legislature for four years, first as an assistant to a State Represenative, and then as Chief of Staff to a State Senator. Josh's advocacy in 2013 led to Missouri enacting one of the first right to try laws in the nation. Since 2016, he has worked as an advocate to advance right to try legislation at the State and Federal level.

Gene Krueger
Board Member
Worked 32 years in high level positions for U.S. Dept. of Interior. Gene is married to Kathleen Dunn, the mother of Abigail Burroughs. Board member St. Luke’s Foundation & Humane Society of Rowan County N.C.

Ron Trowbridge
Board Member
Ron Trowbridge was chief of staff to Chief Justice Warren Burger.  Headed bipartisan Bicentennial U. S. Constitution Commission.  Appointed by President Reagan to top level position U.S. Information Agency.  Ph. D. in English, U. Michigan.  College vice president and professor.

Prince Agarwal
Board Member
Prince was a close friend of Abigail’s at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia, and later attended the University of Virginia with Abigail, graduating in 2002 with a degree in finance. His career has taken him to New York City where he has a successful career, first working for Goldman Sachs and now Deutsche Bank Group. Prince helped start the Abigail Alliance in 2001.

Sjaak Vink
Board Member
After a successful entrepreneurial career, Sjaak set out to dedicate his time towards social good and global health access. He founded TheSocialMedwork in 2015 with the sole mission to help patients all over the world to get access to the newest treatments not approved or available in their home countries. To date, TheSocialMedwork has helped thousands of patients and doctors in over 80 countries, including the US, with access to over 8.000 unapproved medicines. 

Anne Agnew 
Board Member
Anne Agnew has been a member of the Abigail Alliance Board of Directors since 2001. Anne is a strategy consultant focused on entrepreneurial ventures. Her projects have moved her around the globe working in North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East. She holds an MBA from IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Anne and Abigail graduated from George Mason High School together in 1998.

Jason Yeh
Director of Technology
Jason attended the University of Virginia where, as Philanthropy Chair for Theta Delta Chi, he ran the High Stakes fundraiser for the Abigail Alliance in 2003 and 2004. After graduating in '05 with degrees in Cognitive Science, Economics, and Computer Science, Jason moved to NYC as a consultant for Kurt Salmon Associates before eventually joining MLB.com and becoming their Director of New Media. In 2012, Jason will receive his MBA from Harvard Business School.