BT峰会有幸邀请到2009年诺贝尔生理学或医学奖获得者杰克•绍斯塔克做开幕主题演讲。杰克·绍斯塔克（Jack William Szostak），美国生物学家、霍华德·休斯医学研究所研究员、哈佛医学院遗传学教授、麻省总医院亚历山大·里奇杰出研究员。他与伊丽莎白·布莱克本和卡罗尔·格雷德因为“发现端粒和端粒酶如何保护染色体”而一起获得2009年诺贝尔生理学或医学奖。
I would like thank the organizing committee of the Shenzhen Biotech Leaders Summit, and especially the Vice-Mayor of Shenzhen City and the Director of SIAT for giving me this opportunity to visit Shenzhen for the first time, and to meet with so many interesting people. I am impressed with the dynamic atmosphere, and am looking forward to an exciting conference. We’re all very privileged to be participating in the advances in Biotechnology that are beginning to revolutionize health care.
Now, you may have noticed that I am not Sydney Brenner, who was originally scheduled to present this Keynote address. Unfortunately he is in ill health and, and was unable to travel here. I know we are all wishing him a speedy recovery; he is certainly one of the world’s greatest biologists and always a pleasure to talk to, and I am very sorry he can’t be here with us.
So, you may be asking yourselves, who is this person talking to us? He has a NP, but what is his connection to Biotech? It is true that my career has been mostly in very fundamental academic research, but at the same time I have had long and varied experiences with Biotech and Pharma, including such biotech companies as Genetics Institute, Transkaryotic Therapies, Gilead Sciences, Cubist, Phylos, Ra, Moderna, and Elysium and the Pharma company Hoechst, which became Aventis. I thank the organizers again for opportunity to share some of my experiences and insights.
Now, my original plan, when I was asked at the last minute to step in for Sydney, was to give a straight talk - to discuss the interactions between the Biotech industry and Academia, the investment community, Big Pharma and the legal IP community. However, having come in from Boston on Monday, I am completely jet lagged. As a result, I was lying awake last night at 3 PM, unable to fall back asleep, because while I know what time it is, my body certainly does not. And while I was thinking, it occurred to me that I could try something more creative than my original plan - and so, yes, I am could do an experiment here, with you as the subjects, and throw out my straight talk and try something different. Well, that’s what happens when you pull in a jet lagged speaker at the last minute.
What I am going to do is to talk about Science and Art. I would bet that most of you think of yourselves as scientists, or at least in the business of Science. But what I would like to say is that there is a large component of Art in what we do, and that we need to recognize this and encourage this aspect of our work. So, why do I say this?
This idea actually came from my frustration with my colleagues in the field of synthetic organic Chemistry. I am a Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, and in that Chemistry Department are some of the world’s greatest synthetic organic chemists, including the Nobel Prize winner EJ Corey. Now these people are brilliant, don’t get me wrong, and they display that brilliance by showing us, again and again, that they can synthesize any complicated molecule that Nature can test them with. They can dissect the most complicated natural products, down to tiny pieces, and put the pieces back together again in remarkably creative synthetic pathways.
But, and this is what frustrates me, is that when I draw a simple biological molecule, such a nucleotide, and change one atom, usually, despite all this information and expertise and experience, they can’t tell me how to make the new molecule! It can take months or even a year of trial and error and optimization to come up with an acceptable process. So, when chemists tell me the synthesis is a mature science, I say no, it isn’t - its an art form. You need intuition and experience and creativity to find these pathways, and even though we have a lot of information about thousands of reactions, we don’t have the level of understanding, the knowledge, that would let us look at a molecule, and design an optimal synthesis, and then make the molecule the same day.
Now my point is, that in some respects Biotechnology is the same. I suggest that the development of new therapeutics is so complex and one has to find a path through so many unknowns, that the development of a new drug is more like art than science - in the sense that it takes a sort of biological intuition to make progress when we know both so much and so little. Now you may say that we know so much more now than ever before - we know our genome sequence and the sequence of every pathogen, we know how to fabricate molecules that will bind anything and block any interaction and so on. We can make any antibody you want, to bind to any target molecule you want. We can make peptides, and aptamers and siRNAs and so on. But that’s not enough. Certainly it is true that we have orders of magnitude more information than ever before in the history of science - but do we have that much more understanding? Clearly we don’t and that is why is it still so hard to develop new drugs. Consider what we don’t know - we don’t know what most human genes do, and we know even less about how they do it, where they do it and why; we have a hard time delivering our drugs to the right place at the right time, and we can’t predict when they go to the wrong place and lead to some toxic interaction. Take the immune system, where our growing understanding has led to the most exciting advances in cancer therapy in history - and yet despite decades of work we are still figuring out the molecular players that make these therapies work or fail. These are the challenges of the future, problems that will be and are being solved by brilliant people with fantastic new tools.
But for now we should recognize that making sense of all of this information, making connections between points that seem unrelated, in other words, intuition and creativity, are at the heart of progress. And therefore we should cultivate that more artistic side of our efforts, that artist’s ability to bring disparate influences together in surprising and beautiful new combinations, even as we aim for a more systematic approach, to that ideal of being able to examine a sick patient, collect the necessary information, make a correct diagnosis and design an optimal treatment. Only when we can do that will I agree that Biotech, and Medicine in general, has become a science and is no longer an art form.
Thank you for listening.