Failure is often seen as a negative part of scientific discovery. Failure is inherently bad. But failure is not completely bad. When it is not a completely indomitable failure, it provides an opportunity for growth, and quite often is a stepping stone towards success, or brings you one step closer from achieving your goal.
This anthology is a collection of 15 carefully curated pieces which reflect the importance and the nuances around failure and its role in the scientific world. As you will find, failure is not only an irremovable component of science and progress, but a driving force into scientific discovery and advancement.
Continue reading “Scientific Anthology: Failure as a Stepping Stone”
“Political, social, and economic factors and strategic scientific, financial, and business decisions” – Hughes 165
What incentives are there for scientists? Well, that question isn’t too hard to answer. But what is their motivating factor when conducting their work?
Its obvious that scientists usually pursue a field that sparks interest to them. But how can we be sure that money, fame, and recognition aren’t just as significant, if not more significant? The answer is that we don’t, we just have to assume they’re doing it for all the right reasons.
But put yourself in the shoes of a scientist. Clearly you’ve devoted your life to discovery and scientific ingenuity. But, was your motivation science itself, or was it the perks and incentives that came with it? Its a difficult topic to think about, but when digging deeper the options become more apparent.
The fame, recognition, and money that come along with large groundbreaking discoveries in a certain field can skew the minds of scientists. But those truly committed to their work will do it for the right reasons. So given this, what do you think the motivation was at Genetech? I know my answer, but everyone is entitles to their own opinion.
“As the founders of the biotechnology industry, our goal is to use the power of genetic engineering and advanced technologies to make medicines that address unmet medical needs, and help millions of people worldwide” – Genentech
After finishing Hughes book, I was very interested at looking at Genentech’s website to see what they are doing today and all that they have accomplished. This quote which was on their “our leadership” page really summed up their mission as a company and answered a lot of questions that I was asking myself throughout the book. I often wondered whether Genentech was too concerned with the money they were going to make when they initially started their company. Especially Swanson, the business end of the partnership, who really pushed the scientists to discover their products very quickly in order to profit as a company. I questioned whether over time they became too concerned with the competitive scientific world, and lost sight of benefiting humanity, but this quote disproves my feelings. Genentech’s website is set up similarly to a blog page. They have links to all their research and ongoing projects, which I thought really represented their mission as a company. It is a very easy site to navigate and it truly shows that Genentech is a company for the people. Another item that I really enjoyed on their website was the “Living 10 years in the Future” page. Here they showed a fantastic video of what it is like to be a Genentech scientist.
After reading the book, the audience can question whether or not scientists are motivated by helping the people, or money. Even when visiting the Genetech website, they stress their dedication to the patients and the good of science. However, like any company the scientists must work in oder to please investors. If a product is not made in a timely manner successfully, the company will fall behind competitors. The website even lists reasons why people should invest in their company, all surrounding money obviously. People can become concerned projects are rushed, or not done to the best of the scientists ability in order to make certain deadlines or requirements. Regardless, Genetech is a multi-billion dollar company and is not lacking in investments.
We believe it’s urgent to deliver medical solutions right now – even as we develop innovations for the future. We are passionate about transforming patients’ lives. We are courageous in both decision and action. And we believe that good business means a better world.-www.gene.com
The idea for Genetech originally came from Bob Swanson, a capital venturist with a love for chemistry and science in general. But, did the motivation behind starting the company come from his love of science and determination to make advancements in the field of biotechnology? Or did he just see a market that could be exploited to make himself a ton of money? Genetech was trying to replicate insulin genes and market it to people in need, such as those with diabetes. That sounds like a noble thing to do, but did Swanson really care about the advancements his team was making in the field? I doubt he would have continually looked for funding for his company if he did not see a huge payday at the end of the tunnel. I believe scientists, such as Cohen, genuinely want to help people and want to develop cures or treatments for different diseases. But venture capitalists, such as Swanson, are mainly along for the ride because they believe there will be a lot of money at the end of the road, and maybe even some fame to go with it.
“Swanson’s experience as a venture capitalist had centered on young Silicone Vally companies, each with products that had been prototyped and were nearing or on the market. Genetech presented a very different situation.” – Hughes (49)
The unfortunate reality, is that in order to conduct experiments and discover new things, you need resources, and resources are funded by money. Thus, in order to conduct experiments and move forward with your endeavor, you have to have funding; money.
The way in which most scientists go is that they search for investors that would be willing to sponsor and fund the project. the scientist(s) will then show this investor what they are working on and their current progress. However, earning the funds from venture capitalists has become increasingly difficult as the years have gone on. The competition is higher and there are simply more people looking for investors. It helps promote a higher level of discovery, but many groups projects get out on fault until they find someway to pay for their projects.
An alternative is to apply for a government grant. The government grant is something that scientists don’t necessarily drool over, but its something to get the wheels off the ground. Since its a government grant, it isn’t as efficient or lenient as a venture capitalist but again, its money that these groups of scientists need to move forward.
But go into the mind of a scientist, how would you like to be funded? Most people would answer venture capitalist. But whats the significance? Well, the significance is that Genetech had no prototype or model.In todays society it would be impossible to receive funding this way, however the guys at Genetech managed to earn money for their incredible work without having a tangible model to show what they were trying to accomplish. Its remarkable really. But, the important thing is that were able to somewhat avoid this difficult process of putting their project on hold to receive funds. They were still at the first stage of discovery so they were able to just hit the ground running with money, and go from there. Very unique situation.
“Biotechnology firms raced to turn the results of pure research into applicable technology. By luring some of the best scientific brains with salaries that academia couldn’t hope to match, they too started to push back the frontiers of knowledge, driving the world of the universities, much as they had originally had been driven” (Johnson 40)
Is money the main motive for driving the frontiers of the scientific world? When thinking about the question, I decided to research how money and the desire to profit affects the healthcare world. According to Forbes magazine, healthcare costs in the United States might be so high because there is a huge desire for profit. Russell Andrews, a neurosurgeon interviewed by the magazine claims that “we have transformed healthcare in the U.S. into an industry whose goal is to be profitable.” Another situation described by Forbes magazine is the story of Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur who raised the price of a life-saving HIV drug by 5000% overnight. Though Shkreli claims that the profits his company will make off of this drug (due to its high price) will fuel even more HIV research, he has made it so thousands of people who need the drug are not able to afford it.