If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I used to work as a neuroscientist at a neurology-focused biotech company. Coming from an insulated environment of academic research, it was a truly eye-opening experience for me on many levels.
While academic biomedical research is often driven by natural curiosity about how our bodies work in health and disease, research in the private sector is very goal driven – delivering new medicines to patients.
Unlike a typical research department in academia, a company requires many more types of people to work together: legal department, marketing, HR, etc… During my time there, a few things puzzled me in how non-scientists may perceive science.
Here is one of my favorite stories that I have written about before. It is now a couple years out of date, but still very relevant.
A couple of years ago, I attended a large meeting, where people working in the biomedical community were presented with a new potential treatment for migraines. In order to motivate the employees, the speaker asked how many people in the audience suffer from migraines. Half of the people raised their hands. The initiative to address this condition was certainly very motivating. Yet it made me wonder – if the topic would have been a more serious condition, such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy, would the patients have equal courage to raise their hands? Most likely not, because they would have a sense of stigma associated with these conditions…
The company put a lot of effort to bring in patient advocates and educate all employees in disease awareness. But how much of this really sinks in when you do not deal with science (and its associated terminology) on a daily basis?
Intellectual curiosity is probably one of the main reasons people go into science. Scientists are naturally motivated to ask questions and keep digging for more information. This is especially true in academia, where you are given the freedom to roam wherever your data takes you.
But even at a company, where work is more goal-oriented, part of your motivation to keep moving a drug development program forward is the curiosity of what will happen if you pose a new hypothesis (or keep testing an old one). Depending on which specialty field you are interested in, you will choose the place to work.
But what about the non-scientists? How would a human resources/marketing/business development person decide to go and work at a company that works in a biomedical field? Sure, a few of them may have scientific training (i.e. scientists that turn into patent lawyers). But what about the rest? It is really fascinating to me how a professional that has nothing to do with science would even think of looking into a biotech company.
How can SciArt help?
So this brings us to the final question (for now). How can art help people who have a different background connect with the company mission?
Science can seem daunting to people who do not deal with it on a daily basis. But if we present it in bite-sized pieces in the form of art that people can stop and connect with, it could help them get more curious and intrigued by the fascinating research that happens just a few doors down the hall.
Maybe it can even attract more people to contributing their knowledge to developing treatments for devastating diseases.
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