Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fulfilling the Promise of Science

Cecilia Arradaza, Communications Director, FasterCures

Over the past two centuries, medical science has contributed to half of the world’s economic growth. The Promise of Medical Science panel at the 2011 Milken Institute Global Conference agreed that if we are to improve the economy, we must invest in medical research.

In fact, Michael Milken, Chairman of the Milken Institute and FasterCures, said “medical science is the #1 stimulus to the economy.” Milken moderated the panel that featured Nobel laureates James Watson and Elizabeth Blackburn, University of California San Francisco chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, and Amgen’s Corporate Chief Medical Officer Sean Harper.

Speeding Up Research
Hellman highlighted the vital nature of pursuing translational research, the kind of research that pursues clinical application of promising scientific discoveries.

“The bedside is increasingly becoming the bench and we are learning more from every patient interaction and outcomes,” she said. “Scientists should be more concerned to finish the race for patients rather than the race to be published.”

Blackburn noted that science is now emerging to intercept disease, leading to more effective prevention methods and earlier detection and diagnosis.

Panelists shared concern about how the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies charged with developing life-saving therapies are valued much lower than companies producing consumer products like potato chips, cosmetics, and soft drinks.

“And yet, everyday, we see around us the need to invest in life sciences,” said Harper. “At Amgen, recent technology advancements allow for the ability to collect biomarkers that screen patients to test their responsiveness to therapeutics. Part of a larger movement towards personalized medicine that is expected to yield the most effective results.

Human CapitalMilken noted that the world’s assets are driven by the productivity of individuals, and economic growth greatly depends on medical research that will extend the average lifespan and improve the quality of life.

Hellmann noted that the pipeline of human capital hinges on education in the sciences. She emphasized that we need to introduce students to the thrill and promise of discovery at a young age. Students should be exposed to global health, encouraging them to use science as a way to solve the world’s problems.

Watson said that society needs to better acknowledge the “marvel of genius” and inspire it across generations. He added the need to give “real power to people under 30.” Watson was 25 when he was part of the team that discovered the structure of the DNA

Blackburn added the need to have a culture where “freedom of ideas is valued and explored.”
The panel acknowledged the critical role of government in science, noting the need to support efforts that encourage greater return for our federal investment in basic research.

Watch a video of the session.

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