Damn the torpedoes!

Charles K. Fisher

February 1, 2024

My memo to Unlearn's board at the beginning of 2023 was called “A Declaration of War”. It focused on our need to build a culture of grit, to hustle, to be ambitious and unyielding in our pursuit of success. However, that memo raised an important question that we haven’t answered clearly enough. What have we declared war against?

We have declared war against a risk averse biomedical research establishment that moves at a glacial pace. We have declared war against those who stand in the way of innovation. Against the conservative attitude that clings to the status quo and shuns new technologies. Against the skeptics and naysayers who say that biology is too complex, that we can’t build quantitative theories to understand and predict human health. Against a system that produces too few medicines, too expensive drugs, for too few people.

This is a war worth fighting because we’re fighting for everyone who’s ever received a wrong diagnosis, a treatment that doesn’t work or has serious side effects. Every patient that suffered or died waiting for the results of a clinical trial, for a new treatment, that didn’t come in time. Everyone who couldn’t afford or get access to the treatments they need. And all the people who this will continue to happen to if we don’t succeed in our mission.

I know that the wartime analogy is a cliche that doesn’t resonate with everybody. But the state of biomedical research today pisses me off. This system is failing current and future patients and I know we can do better. How can people accept that this is as fast as we can go?

Well we don’t accept it. So, we will be relentless. We will invent new technologies, launch new products, and shout our story from the rooftops so that we can hire the best people and find courageous champions willing to take on the establishment with us. We will solve AI for biology. We will make sure that every future patient gets the prevention or cure they deserve.

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

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