By Seema Kumar
Scientific researchers — in academia and the private sector — give us tremendous gifts of health and happiness. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a parent or a grandparent to Alzheimer’s, has taken medicine to treat a headache, or has avoided illness altogether thanks to a vaccine, knows the benefit of scientific progress is personal. Extending and improving lives eases more than human suffering — it also addresses the economic toll of life-threatening disease. Over the past four decades, life expectancy gains due to scientific advancement have added trillions of dollars per year to the economy in the US alone.
Yet despite their significantly positive impact on our own lives, those of our families, and on public health, even the very best scientists often go unappreciated for their work — and for many reasons this is especially true for women in research.
That is why I am proud that Johnson & Johnson has chosen to honor the life and legacy of scientific pioneer Dr. Susan Lindquist, a groundbreaking researcher at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, with a new $5 million endowed Chair for Women in Science.
Sue changed the face of basic research and medicine, and advanced understanding of diseases like Parkinson’s. She was a member of our board of directors, who helped us advance research as innovative as she was, and she was a passionate researcher, a teacher, an entrepreneur, and a role model for women in science. I had the honor of working for Sue during my time at Whitehead, and she was a powerhouse of energy, ideas, and impact that inspired me and an entire generation of women and men.
Earlier this fall, we also recognized Dr. Ohsumi with our Johnson & Johnson 2016 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research based on his pioneering work in autography just weeks before his Nobel win. His research has advanced our understanding of how cells recycle their content, which has illuminated a new path of research for the treatment of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Celebrating the outstanding achievements of scientists like Dr. Lindquist and Dr. Ohsumi helps to build public support for the power of science to improve lives and inspire thousands of scientists who work in academia, independent research organizations, and industry in their work to solve the world’s greatest healthcare challenges.
I invite you to lend your voice to share in our ongoing celebration of great scientists throughout the year. Look for us on Twitter at #ScientistsMakeLifeBetter
Seema Kumar is Vice President of Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson (J&J).