Cracking The Code

Cracking The Code, forthcoming from Random House Australia, April 2015

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A family doctor shares a mother and father’s determination to save their son

This story of a father’s search to find a diagnosis, and ultimately a cure, for his son’s mystery disease is an inspiration that has set the world of genetic medicine and research abuzz with the possibilities for the future. After Cracking the Code screened on Australian Story Stephen Damiani and his extraordinary ordinary family, have been inundated with messages of support for Mission Massimo. 

Stephen has a background in construction economics and risk management. He teamed with geneticist Ryan Taft to map his family’s genome in an attempt to discover the cause of his son’s illness and in the process developed a diagnostic tool that will revolutionise diagnoses and treatments of diseases as complex and rare as Massimo’s leukodystrophy to widespread diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Previously, trying to find a specific gene mutation that might be responsible for a disease was a million times harder than finding a needle in a haystack. Stephen’s suggestion that Ryan align the genomes, or DNA blueprints, of himself, his wife Sally as well as Massimo, to find any unique variations and thereby create a smaller haystack was previously untried. Stephen convinced Massimo’s neurologist, Dr Rick Leventer at Melbourne’s RCH, that it was just a case of technology, statistics, data, and money, but that it could be done. 

Once Taft was able to locate and isolate the specific genetic mutation of Massimo’s DARS gene, the hunt was on to find other children with the same genetic mutation so that the diagnoses could be confirmed. With the help of Adeline Vanderver at the Washington DC-based Centre for Genetic Medicine and her Myelin Disorders Program they were able to locate several other children with the DARS mutation and have now moved on to the next phase of Mission Massimo, finding a cure.

Cracking the Code is simultaneously a wonderful family memoir and the story of some mind-blowing discoveries in medicine. – See more at:


Sydney Morning Herald: May 2, 2015

“The writing of  Cracking the Code is attributed to the Damianis “with” Dr. Leah Kaminsky, but she is the one who pulled this complicated tale together. As the family’s GP, she was the conduit to specialists and treatments and an unfailing source of support. 

Kaminsky seamlessly inserts Stephen and Sally’s voices, allowing them to express the impact of their ordeal in their own words. She also emphasises that it was the Damianis’ strength and determination that  heralded this international breakthrough in medical science.” – Dianne Dempsey.

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 The Australian: July 4, 2015

More than a cracking read… This is a story for our time, and a pointer to the medical world of the future – John Ross.

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