Pushing the Boundaries of Science to Change Lives

Today’s guest blog comes from Gemma Dickinson, director of Drug Disposition at Lilly. Gemma recently traveled to Capitol Hill with two other Lilly researchers, Molly Carr, and Alison Budelsky, to meet with Members of Congress and discuss the innovative research & development that takes place at Lilly. She shares her experience in this blog.

As a director in the Drug Disposition group at Lilly, the last place I thought I would find myself this spring was on Capitol Hill talking to policymakers about science! But that’s where I was this week, along with my colleagues Molly Carr and Alison Budelsky (pictured below). And we were so excited about it.

Like all scientists at Lilly, I am passionate about the importance of science. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved science – since my first chemistry set that I got for Christmas, to finding a caterpillar in the garden and nurturing it as it turned into a butterfly, to biology field trips to the Yorkshire moors as a teenager to reading A Brief History of Time and feeling overwhelmed by all that I didn’t know and wanting to find out more.

I think my future career as a scientist was cemented during my final year project as an undergraduate student when a group of us went to a conference in Istanbul to share our work. My first experience of a scientific conference was exciting, eye opening and inspiring. That was it. The path was set. I also learned something important: By investing in and supporting our young scientists, by showing people the wonder and the beauty of science, we can inspire people to support, or even join, us.

After my PhD and postdoctoral research in the UK, I joined Lilly. Ever since then I have been doing what I love, applying my scientific expertise to drive innovation and to bring medicines to patients. More specifically, the work that I do helps to ensure that the medicines we make can be safely administered to as wide a group of patients as possible. That is, we can show that they will be safe and efficacious in a wide range of ethnicities, disease states and polypharmacy scenarios.

As much as I love the actual work I do, my favorite thing about my job is the people I work with. They work hard every day to ensure that we are applying the best, most cutting-edge science. I see some parallels between what my colleagues and I do at Lilly and my experience this week on the Hill.

As scientists, a big part of our job is driving change through education. We spend a lot of time showing people (other scientists, Lilly colleagues, the external academic environment and regulators) what we are doing, explaining why we are doing it and demonstrating the value.

So I came to D.C. with that same mission—to share my scientific journey and tell policymakers why it’s important to me that the government supports investment in science and nurtures an environment where we’re able to help patients by doing what we love. For me, it’s really a dream come true to be able to share my passion with those who have the influence to support us in our mission to push the boundaries of science forward.

While I don’t know if all those we met with were convinced of our message, I’m sure some learned more about our work—our successes and our failures—but most importantly, about our determination.  And that means we made progress, which is what science is about – progress. Innovation relies on failure. If we don’t fail, we can’t learn. If people are afraid to fail, we don’t advance. But despite the failures we can face, if we keep our eyes on the ultimate goal, we know we can push the boundaries of science to discover new medicines that change lives.