Elder was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of eight, when the life expectancy for people with CF was only in the mid-20s. Throughout his life, he has been on many medications to treat the disease's debilitating symptoms and improve his
Elder has been taking a new breakthrough drug called ivacaftor, which was developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., with significant financial and clinical support from the Foundation.
At a congressional briefing in 2013, Elder spoke about the health gains he has experienced since starting ivacaftor, the first oral drug that treats the underlying cause of CF in a small group of people with the disease. At the briefing he said: “Thanks to this treatment, I am able to attend medical school, and I'm healthier now than ever before in my life.”
On its website, the White House describes Elder's story as “a testament to the promise of precision medicine, an emerging approach to treatment that takes into account patients' individual characteristics, and a kind of research the President hopes to expand.”
Each year the First Lady invites special guests, representing the themes and ideals of the president's speech, to sit with her during the State of the Union.