What does the future of science look like? If you ask a hundred different people, you’ll get at least a hundred answers – ranging from colonies on Mars to the eradication of disease.
The truth is, no one knows.
And that uncertainty is precisely what’s so exciting about science. Anything is possible.
What is absolutely certain, however, is that to benefit from scientific exploration in the future, we must cultivate an environment where it can thrive today.
At Genentech, the world’s first biotechnology company, we have developed numerous breakthrough medicines through four decades of questioning conventional thinking and persevering through failure – and we have demonstrated what that environment can be. We believe the principles that have always guided us are fundamental to sustaining scientific innovation in the United States today.
The Jury’s Out Until The Data Are In.
Science searches for truth. Hypotheses are just starting points. The process is rigorous; there are no shortcuts. It makes failure far more likely than success. Evidence must be gathered, data must be recorded with accuracy and detail, and outcomes must be peer-reviewed and unhampered by personal beliefs. Without an environment of scientific integrity, the next game-changing discovery might never leave the lab.
While data are important to objectively finding truth, the questions we pose to generate data are just as critical. Scientific investigation demands that we challenge the status quo, question assumptions and explore uncharted territory. To do this in the best way possible we must strive for diversity – in every sense of the word. To find a cure for any disease, we need to be able to create hypotheses from all angles. Approaching any challenge from a single point of view is setting a course for failure.
Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You can’t go it alone. Scientists are part of an international community that’s constantly pushing the field forward. Patients and their families are vital contributors. The open exchange of information – whether presented at medical meetings, published in scientific journals, or shared though a social media post – helps science move faster.
Investing in Possibility.
Science can be a test of patience. The process is long. The promise of an idea in a lab might not be fully realized for 20 years. And a grade-school student sitting in a classroom today might be the one to do it.
Reliable and consistent public and private funding is vital at every stage in the process if we are to continue to push the boundaries of science for generations to come.
Last year we invested $10 billion – more than any other company – in research and development to discover medicines for some of the world’s most serious diseases. We also made substantial charitable contributions to support the advancement of scientific knowledge beyond our labs, including dedicating funding, skills and time to develop STEM education programs in our local communities.
But there’s still so much more to be done if we are to address the multitude of issues that depend upon scientific discovery.
At a time of significant public interest and discourse on science, I’m constantly reminded of the need to actively protect and uphold the fundamental principles that have sustained scientific discovery and progress at Genentech for more than 40 years. I also believe that it takes far more than one person, one company or even one country – we all have a collective responsibility to play a part in the advancement of science.
The exciting thing about this moment in time and the very nature of scientific discovery is that we can all participate. By working together, opening our minds to diverse opinions, engaging in education, or donating time and resources, we can all help to sustain a positive environment for science and make valuable contributions to the possibilities of the future, whatever they may be.
Over the course of the year, senior leaders from our industry will share their perspectives on the future of science and how they live these principles every day. So watch this space. The future of science is here. And we all play a part.