I had the pleasure of attending the annual Oklahoma Health Center Breakfast this morning along with about 1,000 of my closest friends as guest of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.
This year, the breakfast featured a panel discussion by three academic research scientists and a fourth who is both a scientist and also a very successful Oklahoma City entrepreneur. Each of them made some interesting points that stayed with me after I left the event.
So, what did they say? Each was responding to questions by discussion leader David Harlow of BancFirst Oklahoma City. Here’s what I took from the event:
Scientists can’t have a big fear of failure.
“Basic scientific research is really high-risk. You think you understand something, propose a hypothesis, test it and find out you are right, but you really don’t learn anything. When you really learn something is when you find out you are wrong and you try to figure out why you were wrong. That type of research can really go on only in an academic institution because in business you have to make a profit or you are not there.”
— Doris Benbrook, Ph.D., professor and co-director for Cancer Prevention and Drug Development and the Gynecologic Cancer Program at OU’s Stephenson Cancer Center
Widespread antibiotic use in livestock may contribute to the problem of drug resistant bacteria
“Maybe with an antibiotic that came out in the 1960s or 1970s, you might have 10 or 15 years before organisms get resistant. But now something comes out and within 2 or 3 years we find there’s resistance to these new drugs. One of the contributing factors could be that we are using the same drugs in livestock as well as in humans. So it’s an indiscriminate, inappropriate use that maybe led to this issue. The other problem is that most antibiotics that come on the market are really not new. They are a tweaking or change in an antibiotic that’s already been present, so resistance already exists to these antibiotics.”
–Anne Pereira, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate College at the OU Health Sciences Center, professor and associate dean, Research College of Pharmacy at OU. She is also co-founder and chief scientific officer of Oklahoma City-based Biolytx Pharmaceutical Co.
The concept of an “Innovation District” on the Oklahoma Health Center campus will promote collaboration and connectivity throughout the city.
“The whole idea behind innovation is collaboration, cooperation and connectivity. I think in the future, in order to be competitive we have to collaborate. Historically, there was a segregation. In order for us to win, we all have to win. The idea in the Innovation District is… you have an area that is meant to be a flow of information in and out of. The idea is through innovation you have a place that you can work, you can play together…
“The GE Global Research Center just opened, they are here. It’s not serendipitous. They could have picked any city in the United States — in the world — and they chose Oklahoma City … There are a lot of exciting things happening, and that is because of the connectivity, the collaboration.”
–Thomas Kupiec, Ph.D, CEO and President of ARL Bio Pharma, DNA Solutions and the Kupiec Group
A welcoming, collegial atmosphere at Dean McGee Eye Institute was a big factor in recruiting a top scientist to Oklahoma City.
“I was here for two days, and every 20 minutes I would talk to people from door to door. They gave me no time in between. At the end of those two days I realized I wasn’t even a little bit tired … I interviewed with other university departments and I never got that sense of collegiality, friendship. Then I met Dr. (Greg) Skuta and Dr. (Gene) Anderson and they made it really, really easy. Greg is one of the reasons I am here. He was too approachable, too friendly for a chairman.”
–Dimitrios Karamichos, Ph.D., Dean McGee Eye Institute, assistant professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Cell Biology faculty member, Oklahoma Center for Neuroscience