It’s easy to become so engrossed with our research projects and goals that we don’t take the time to pause and really reflect on the progress that science as a whole has made. This is why I look forward to the annual announcements of Nobel Laureates. We get to step back and recognize the discovery of the fundamentals— Why are some lights blue? How do microloans work? Who really started the journey of stem cell research? I’m excited about where science is today and inspired about how much more we can do, especially with help from philanthropy.
I am privileged and proud to be part of the scientific community—from PhD student, to researcher, to scientific funder. All three of these experiences have shaped how I can best give back to science and accelerate discovery within the scientific community.
My pathway, which has led me to be the Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Director of Health Strategy and Ventures, has been guided by my own thoughts and questions about science. I’m in awe of the human body—what an incredible machine. No matter how many discoveries we make about disease and the things that go wrong, there is a symphony of things going right. At any given moment of the day, DNA is being made and degraded, cells are dividing, messages are transcribed, proteins are translated, all of which leads to a response or lack thereof. Given the continually changing pace of our environment and lifestyles, in many cases this amazing symphony remains constant, until it doesn’t and then we look to science for answers.
Along my journey, I’ve explored different roles in science. My research career was positive, supported by brilliant professors and colleagues, but I found I was driven and most satisfied by serving science through dialogue. I want to forge networks that have a foundation of brilliant minds, young and experienced alike, and be part of the pre-publication world where ideas take shape.
Developing networks is important given the peculiarities of disease, particularly Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), where causes remain elusive and idiopathic and constantly test our ability to ask appropriate questions, design the right experiment and make the best observations we can based on all the data. Transparency and open access to the scientific community’s observations bring the scientific world into a neighborhood of minds and individuals that is ripe for incredible collaboration. Having moved along the pathway of science from Canada, to the US, to the UK and now back to the US, I discovered the world of science is indeed a small place, and I am always delighted when I encounter people who appreciate collaborative projects and are motivated to test the next great hypothesis. It’s both exciting and inspiring.
Today, we’re experiencing philanthropy’s powerful role in advancing science. Growing numbers of foundations and charities are bravely funding the best science possible with the help of experts in the field they have committed to support. The Rainin Foundation has boldly drawn a line in the sand in what is still a very elusive world of IBD research, with the goal of finding a cure and improving patients’ lives by investing early in novel approaches. This focused funding platform driven by high risk and high reward work is very appealing.
It’s exciting to be part of the Rainin Foundation’s growing health program and the tremendous opportunity we have to cultivate unconventional ideas and fresh thoughts that could fuel the next eureka moment in IBD research. I feel honored to liaise with fellow scientists and hear their thoughts and concerns. These conversations make it exhilarating to go back to my office and reflect on the next big initiative we could help to fund.
Each of us has a story—the scientists I’m honored to call friends, colleagues and collaborators, the leaders of various funding bodies—and our stories contribute to changing the scientific landscape. We are a community of people who are carrying the vision forward, and counting on each other’s commitment to advancing science together. As I begin my role at the Rainin Foundation, I’m eager to continue to strengthen this network, better understand our stories, and most importantly, make sure the Foundation is asking the right questions to help creative ideas take shape and science progress.
Laura Wilson, PhD
Director, Health Strategy & Ventures
Laura leads the strategic direction for the Foundation’s Health program by collaborating with leading scientific and medical researchers, as well as building partnerships with organizations and international stakeholders to expand and advance innovative Inflammatory Bowel Disease research. Read more.