Week 20 – What Happens When You Are Ahead of the Curve?
Hope all is going well. I would like to begin this week’s blog by wishing my two favorite ladies, my wife Tina and my daughter Tarryn, some very happy birthday wishes. October is a very busy month in our family for birthdays. Besides Tina and Tarryn, my brother-in-law Anthony, our nephew Colin and our new son-in-law Nate all celebrate their birthdays this month. Happy birthday to the group!
I would like to pose a question to you this week. What would you do if you knew what you are working on can have a significant impact in various areas now and in the future yet some of the groups/people you deal with or are looking to work with are still stuck focusing on the past? It has been a dilemma that I have been dealing with throughout my 33-year career. This statement is not meant to be boastful. I am a person that likes to learn from the past, especially in science where historical experiments and data are extremely important. I guess you could say that those people were also ahead of the curve since their research could still be used today. I can imagine that they were somewhat frustrated that people could not see what they were seeing. Science tends to work like that. You can see this to some extent with the current COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. While some people think that these vaccines were just developed, the origins date back to 1995 (Click Here for Article). One of the main scientists, Dr. Katalin Kariko, had a vision that not many people were seeing. The government would not fund her grants. The university she was working at took away her lab space. Imagine someone telling you that what you are working on is worthless. Even her peers couldn’t see it. Through all of this, she persevered and believed in what she was researching. While she thought it was important, she did not envision saving the world.
Most of what we scientists do will not have the impact of her work but in a small way, it could. Many times, we are dealing with the same issues. Case in point. I remember many years ago submitting a grant focused on delivering an antibiotic directly from a medical device. This grant was absolutely trashed by the reviewers. They could not see the use for it. We were ahead of the curve. Several years later I essentially submitted the same grant and the grant was funded. It took time for a new group of my peers to see the value in it. Had I given up, where would the technology have gone? While we were fortunate to develop many aspects of our technology, there is still parts of our technology that could have been advanced if there was some vision.
This lack of vision is not just limited to the scientists. We also see this on the business front as well. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve spoken with companies that want to continue to use 60+ year old technology that works, but does not work as good as it could. These companies are making money off of it so why rock the boat and take a chance on something new. This also permeates in the funding side as well. It is slightly different in that funding groups tend to also stick with who they know, even if the technology is not innovative. Does all of this sound familiar? We’ve been battling this on all sides since we started the company over 18 years ago. It can get frustrating and does make me wonder why I didn’t choose a different profession. I think where the business lack of vision is more frustrating is that most companies are not forthcoming. Unlike the scientists who will be brutally honest (even if they are wrong), some businesses tend to seem interested and string it along and then just drop the conversation. This is what I refer to as the rollercoaster.
When I start to think that there is no hope, you meet a few people that see your vision and the potential benefits of what you’ve dedicated your life to achieving. We have been fortunate that our team gets the vision and they, like Tina and me, get frustrated when other folks don’t get it. They, after all, are in the trenches and see how this technology can really be a game-changer. We have noticed in the last year or two, science and businesses are starting to round the bend. It will never be as fast as we want it to be, but at least you can see some light. We still have so much we want to do and hope time will allow us to do that. We also hope that the people who are visionaries and innovators can break out of the same old, same old, be brave and take a chance on something “new and different.”
See you back here on October 29th.