Scientists – Take Action!

From a Biotech Student

I’ve been studying biotechnology for several years now, and have finally reached my last semester. Earning my degree has been something I’ve been working on for so long now, that it’s hard to believe I’ll be graduating in a month.

But as much as I’ve loved it, each semester has been marked with disasters that caused classes to be canceled, like bomb threats, wildfires, and power shut offs. And now, a virus that is predicted to infect a majority of the world’s population has forced classes to move online, and canceled our graduation ceremony.   

This COVID-19 pandemic begs the question; what kind of world are we graduating into? We’ve been taught that we’re going into a field that is dedicated to improving and saving peoples’ lives, and that we’ll have job security because we’ll be creating life-saving drugs. But the reality that we’re living tells us a very different story.

This pandemic is exposing that pharmaceutical and biotech companies are only out to profit off of the pain and suffering of humanity. If the pharmaceutical companies were truly concerned with the health and well-being of the human population, all non-essential research or manufacturing would stop, and immediately shift to fulfilling the needs of the planet. It would require the entire scientific community to come together, put aside the profit motive, and work on a viable vaccine or treatment collectively.

As it is right now, many different pharmaceutical companies are separately racing to find a treatment, so that it can be patented and sold at the highest price. These are the same companies that inflate drug prices and hire contract workers to maintain a high profit margin, caring nothing for the patients in dire need of the drugs or the workers that produce them. How could we expect them to behave any differently in a pandemic?

We’ve been lied to; It’s never been about just helping people, and thinking the industry is insulated from unemployment is ignoring reality.

Although it may feel like we’re at the mercy of big pharma and biotech, it is us and countless others who are graduating into the scientific community who have the knowledge to produce the life-saving drugs that the world needs. It is high time for us to be the ones deciding what our work will be directed towards and who will have access to these drugs and treatments, instead of the gatekeepers of healthcare that run it today.

Featured image credit: Science in HD / Unsplash