All of us who have chosen careers in biotech began our journey because we passionately believe in the ability of our industry to improve the human condition. For many of us, this means devoting our career to improving the treatment of incurable diseases. For others, this means employing the power of biotech to provide high-quality and healthy food for everyone on this planet. And, for still others it means addressing the need to create new and environmentally friendly sources of energy and materials. In short, we all began our journey in biotech with a set of goals and a moral compass to guide us towards achieving those goals.
My own path to biotech began at the National Cancer Institute as a practicing medical oncologist conducting clinical trials of new cancer therapies. I firmly believed that biotechnology could provide new ways to treat cancer and I have not been disappointed that my own compass pointed me in that direction. Recently, I have been fortunate to return to clinical work as a part-time volunteer physician in the oncology division at San Francisco General Hospital and see firsthand the impact of biotechnology on the treatment of patients with cancer.
San Francisco General is the hospital in our city where people without economic means, and sometimes even without a roof over their head, seek medical care. One of my fellow physicians put it very clearly, “Steve, we can never forget that cancer is the least of the problems that many of our patients face every day of their lives.”
When we read about human suffering every day, we must remember how very fortunate we are to have the opportunity to pursue our career in biotechnology. We spend our days working to heal, fuel and feed the world rather than waking up sick, cold or hungry.
All of us need to be sure that our moral compass is still pointing us in a direction that speaks to our hearts – a direction which includes giving back some of the good fortune we enjoy today. We should do this so that our industry is always seen first and foremost as a group of dedicated and giving individuals, unified above all by our shared commitment to help heal, fuel and feed the world.