As much as it has been said that we are producing far too many PhD graduates than we need, the current era of scientific progress I believe demands the production of far more good scientists to achieve the dream of a truly advanced techy world. Due to the lack of internet at the new apartment, we have been re-watching Star Wars (yes true geeks we are). Perhaps the thing that made Star Wars so successful (and it honestly was not the acting) was how creatively imaginative George Lucas was at describing a world so futuristic, spacey and technological advanced at a time in history, (1977 to be exact) when such technology was so far from becoming reality.
In Munich, the Deutsche Museum houses an incredible amount of gadgets and equipment devised from the early ages till today ranging from ships, mining equipment, textile weaving machines, musical instruments, microscopes, computers, weighing instruments, radios, and much much more. The capacity for the human mind to imagine, invent and create is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We have done this for years and we will keep on doing it, because somehow man is never satisfied with the current state of affairs.
It is no different for the field of biological science, health and medicine. So you know, despite what they say, it is a great time to be a scientist. And why is now a great time? Just look around you. People are becoming more and more interconnected with the aid of mobile technology and the Internet. The ability to find, generate, store and disseminate information is easier than ever. The typical scientist can now read the latest research papers with the click of a mouse or even better, find and talk to an expert in the field. Running experiments have become much faster; consumables and reagents are delivered within the week, DNA sequencing results within 2 days. Work can be carried out on different continents with results shared instantly via email or web meetings. This is a time when ideas are so easily bounced around, which tends to generate even more ideas.
Perhaps for this reason, many big executives are leaving big pharma to start or join smaller biotech companies. Astrazeneca R&D Chief, Briggs Morrison, recently announced a sudden exit and will become CEO of a small privately-held pharmaceutical. Also this year, Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, left his senior R&D role at Pfizer to become CEO of Synlogic, a company dealing with synthetic biology. Big pharmas used to be the only ones with enough money to develop drugs but with the growing interest in healthcare by investors, it is not difficult to find money to fund your very own pharma. In fact, sometimes it is becoming a little too easy. Smaller firms have the flexibility to pursue riskier ideas which big pharma cannot afford to do, and with the technology available today, it is the age where one can do truly amazing stuff.
The next few blog posts will cover some companies that are on the cutting edge of science in arenas such as genomic testing, gene therapy, health monitoring, data processing, and synthetic biology. So the question is, what key question are you working on? And are you fully utilizing the technologies of today in your research?