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Impact of race on biotechnology

Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

Racism is a crime against humanity. The ruthless killing last week of George Floyd in Minnesota is a tragedy that should never have happened, my heart goes out to his loved ones. This is not a one off, though, and it isn’t an America-only issue, either. It is a disease, a global systemic pandemic – one we must wipe out.

In the fields we cover, what does race mean today? That question will be asked within the biotechnology industry during a panel discussion next week led by Dr Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). Dr Michelle McMurry-Heath spoke today about the panel event that will take place on 11 June, during the BIO Digital event.

The panel discussion, titled: Leading Through Crisis: Speaking Up and Out on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Issues Impacting our World will see ‘Black CEO’s of biotechnology companies and leaders of BIO’ share ‘their unique perspectives on being pioneers in developing medicines’.

Here’s what Dr McMurry-Heath has had to say about the events of recent days.

“To say our country is at a crossroads would be an understatement. For the past few months, the world has been confronted by an unprecedented challenge in COVID-19, the likes of which we have not experienced in quite some time. Our BIO member companies have rallied to heed the call, working around the clock in the hopes of not only developing near-term solutions, but also long-term cures. And while this represents a more recent challenge, a more chronic disease has continued to plague the United States and many nations around the world for quite some time – racism.

“It’s a word most of us are uncomfortable uttering in polite company, but one that we no less must get comfortable addressing. The senseless killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia have all forced the nation to confront an ugly truth, and that is, despite the tremendous progress we’ve made, we still have a long way to go. 

“The peaceful protests taking place today are an important reminder that, only when the voices of Black Americans are heard and their experiences fully understood, will we begin the important process of healing that our nation so desperately needs in this moment. For our part, BIO stands with these peaceful protestors and hope that these concerns are not only amplified in the streets, but in the boardrooms and the halls of political power across our country that serve as important agents for change. 

“When I decided to pursue medicine nearly 30 years ago, I did so out of a burning desire to have a positive impact on my community. Health disparities for people of color, then and now, were prevalent and it was my hope that I would use my skills to help improve the patient experience and improve patient outcomes. And while we have made some important progress, we have a long way to go – the data is clear, as communities of color confronting COVID-19 are by far the hardest hit both medically and economically. 

“I will never pretend to have all the answers, but I am committed to be a leader dedicated to finding solutions. I will seek to address the insidiousness of racism globally and work with our member companies to identify ways in which we can tackle the issues of diversity that far too often are lacking in our ranks and, most importantly, improve patient care for all patients in the process.”


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Written By

Iain is a creative writer, journalist and lecturer, and formerly an editor of two international business publications. Iain is now editor of Innovators Magazine, as well as the strategic content director for OnePoint5Media.


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