In a short period of time, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended life as we know it, creating uncertainty and anxiety for all of us. But what has uplifted me during these difficult times is the way so many people in healthcare, biotech and big pharma have responded.
I have been awed by how our people at Syros have supported each other in ways – big and small – and how they have gone above and beyond to continue to advance our mission of transforming patients’ lives. I’ve seen it during our virtual morning coffee dates and weekly lunches and in our company-wide chat: people are lightening the load with humor, providing homeschooling tips and sharing how they are coping. I’ve seen every part of our organization overcome obstacles and find creative solutions to keep our business moving forward, prevent disruptions to our clinical trials, and advance research aimed at finding much-needed new medicines for patients with cancer and genetic diseases.
As I look across ours and other industries, I see the same dedication and grit. I see reason to hope – and not the “hope and a prayer” kind, but real hope.
The rapid mobilization of scientists, biotech, pharma, and healthcare providers to collectively combat this virus is unlike any effort I have seen before. More than 100 clinical trials are already underway to test drugs to treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have succeeded in treating viral diseases before – HIV, HCV, influenza – and scientists and clinicians are using their past experience with viruses to combat this new one. The speed by which we’ve translated our understanding of the virus and the clinical course of the disease into drugs in clinical testing is remarkable. This is not about if we will find treatments, but when.
But the reasons for hope go beyond our efforts to battle the virus itself.
While we may be physically apart, we are coming together to support our healthcare workers and help the most vulnerable people in our communities.
To name just two examples: the Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub is coordinating donations from life sciences and healthcare organizations to give first responders and healthcare workers the lab and diagnostic supplies, personal protection equipment (PPE), and medical and scientific expertise they so desperately need. Life Science Cares’ (LSC) is connecting people to virtual volunteer opportunities and launched the COVID-19 Response Fund to help the hardest-hit people in our communities – the homeless, those living in poverty, and students – by providing food, medical care, financial support and resources to continue education. In a little more than a week, companies have donated more than $1 million to the fund.
These incredible efforts of people throughout the biotech industry in the face of this crisis give me confidence in our collective ability to adapt, overcome the challenges ahead, and emerge stronger for it.
Hope and caring are our guiding lights amidst the uncertainty. May they continue to be our guiding lights both during and beyond this pandemic as we strive to deliver medicines that make a profound difference for patients and aim to make our communities stronger.
About the Author:
Nancy Simonian, M.D
CEO, Syros Pharmaceuticals
Nancy Simonian, M.D, is the founding CEO of Syros and has an established track record of value creation in biotechnology. Prior to Syros, she was Chief Medical Officer at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and previously, Vice President of Clinical Development at Biogen. Nancy has overseen the successful development of numerous medicines. Under Nancy’s leadership as Chief Medical Officer at Millennium, VELCADE became a mainstay of treatment for multiple myeloma. Nancy led development of Millennium’s clinical pipeline, including NINLARO for hematologic malignancies and ENTYVIO for inflammatory bowel disease. At Biogen, Nancy played a central role in developing AVONEX and TYSABRI for multiple sclerosis. Nancy started her career as an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and neurology staff at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). She trained in neurology and internal medicine at MGH and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Princeton. She is currently a member of the board of directors of Evelo Biosciences, Seattle Genetics, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.