Do you remember your first baking soda volcano exploding all over the kitchen? Your first curious look through a microscope? Ever dream of curing a disease? We sure did. It’s what got us interested in science in the first place, and it’s part of the reason we work in research and drug development today.
We’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of science on society – and we wanted to see what kids today thought of when asked about the future of science. We couldn’t be more inspired.
The future of science is no small concept. It is critical to solving some of our planet’s biggest challenges – ranging from advancing medical care for an aging population to alleviating the energy crisis and food supply shortages around the globe. And we, as a society, have a lot of work to do.
Science and Society - and ASCO
Every year at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), scientists, doctors and patient advocates gather to discuss the latest advances in cancer care.
In the span of five days during the early summer, they present their research, discuss the findings and share ways to improve the lives of people with cancer.
Walking the halls at ASCO you can hear talks about a wide variety of topics. These range from new scientific avenues being pursued in the laboratory to clinical data about new treatment approaches.
ASCO also chooses a theme for the meeting each year. To commemorate the historic 50th Meeting, ASCO chose the theme of “Science and Society." Fitting, as there hasn’t been a time in our history when cancer is so relevant to our country’s health.
According to ASCO, cancer will one day be the number one cause of mortality in the United States, surpassing heart disease. Cancer is a complicated disease and one that we will likely have to research for many years. For us at Genentech that means that in addition to discovering new medicines, we have to inspire a love for science and medicine in the next generation of researchers and doctors.
We know that fewer Americans are choosing to pursue science careers. The result is less critical thinking, limited innovation and – closer to home – a lack of understanding of the human body, diseases and medicine. To put this into perspective, consider results from a recent National Science Foundation study that found more than 25% of Americans don't know the Earth revolves around the Sun.
We can point to many reasons why interest in science is waning, but at least one of them is a lack of access to and cultivation for science education at an early age.
In 2008, we decided we needed to help fix this issue in our own community. We started Gene Academy, an elementary school program targeting the critical stage of development when young students begin to use their imaginations in school.
At Gene Academy, our employee volunteers work with students right in our own backyard of South San Francisco to offer weekly mentoring, homework help and more.
Since 2008 Gene Academy has served more than 450 students, and Genentech employees have racked up more than 14,000 hours of volunteer time.
We are constantly inspired by our Gene Academy students. And, in keeping with "Science and Society," we thought they could inspire you, too.
So, we asked these students what they would invent to “change the world or to help a lot of people.” Their responses are wise beyond their years. And you might recognize certain themes, from developing adherence and delivery options for medicines to helping the elderly and exploring space.
From flying cars to chocolate bars, we invite you to take a look inside their imaginations:
These drawings tell us one thing – brilliant minds are dreaming about building space cars and inventing new ways of helping people. Who doesn’t like the idea of chocolate-flavored medicine?
If our Gene Academy students stay excited about science and continue to find support from their parents, teachers and communities, our future is indeed bright. And who knows? Maybe we will see a few of them presenting late-breaking data a few years down the road.
Dietmar Berger is Senior Vice President and Global Head, Product Development, Clinical Hematology and Oncology at Roche/Genentech. In this role, Dr. Berger leads the medical strategy for the company’s global clinical development portfolio for cancer medicines. Dr. Berger was formerly Vice President of Global Clinical Development for Roche/Genentech’s HER2 breast cancer franchise and was instrumental in the development and marketing approvals of two breast cancer medicines across three indications.
Dr. Berger has more than 20 years of experience in oncology research and development, including as Head of the Clinical Research Center at the University Medical Hospital, Freiburg, Germany. He has held leadership positions at several global pharmaceutical companies and also received the Cancer Award of the German Cancer Society for his research on angiogenesis. Dr. Berger has authored more than 40 scientific publications and five books.