A reader who works in biotech responds to the TAD question, “What is a common and/or annoying misconception about your vocation?”
Here’s an interesting one I just thought of for my field in cancer research: Sometimes I’m asked why we haven’t come up with a “cure for cancer.” This may sometimes come packed with assumptions that the biopharmaceutical industry is deliberately trying to avoid “curing” cancer because there’s so much money in drugs.
The reality is, cancer is hundreds of different diseases, and it’s still deeply complex and far from fully understood. So since there’s no clear solution to stopping cancer, therapy is the next best answer, since patients are suffering now. I’m definitely not saying that companies in my industry are doing their absolute best (they’re only as good and smart as the people who run them), but the collective of scientific knowledge says that nothing about this line of research is easy.
Here’s a quick reply from a reader who spent 15 years working in Big Pharma:
That fact alone—that cancer is a collection of diseases—dissuades Pharma from attacking it, with the absence of blockbuster potential. It’s becoming reminiscent of antibiotics, albeit for somewhat different reasons.
The first reader adds:
But antibiotics are an interesting case as well; they’re not getting any more effective. Before long we will need another means of fighting dangerous bacterial infections. Some serious work to be done in that area.
Speaking of that work, Sarah Zhang just last week had an alarming Atlantic piece about antibiotic resistance: