Damon Runyon Blog

September 20, 2016

Lorraine Egan, President & Chief Executive Officer, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

A recent article in Nature, “The Unsung Heroes of CRISPR,” highlights the special role of young scientists in research breakthroughs.  They are “unsung,” because they rarely get the credit they deserve for being important drivers of innovation in research.  But they are crucial to progress against cancer and other biomedical research.

It made me think of Lin Manuel Miranda, the celebrated creator of Hamilton, who won his first Tony in 2008, when he was 28.  He is a classic example of a young person breaking the mold.  History is replete with stories of bold innovation by young minds.  Take Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to name two other contemporary examples.  The same is true in biomedical research.  In fact, the majority of Nobel Prizes in science have gone to individuals who made their prize-winning discovery before they were 40.

Unfortunately, even the best young scientists are often still “in training” well into their 30’s, working in someone else’s lab, rather than being independent and free to pursue their own ideas.  They fly under the radar, working long hours at very low pay relative to their advanced education (PhDs, MDs, etc.).  The prizes and accolades for their work typically goes to their more senior lab heads.

Because we believe in the power of the best young minds to make breakthrough discoveries, we are committed to supporting new generations of researchers.  Our goals are to move them more rapidly to independent positions, as well provide them with freedom to pursue their radical new ideas.  Without this kind of encouragement and support, we risk losing the best minds to research at a time when the possibilities for transforming cancer have never been better.