Editor’s Corner—Looking back, looking ahead

A personal message from the editor as the clock strikes and brings our 2017 coverage to a close. (Rexness/CC BY-SA 2.0)

At the end of the year, we all like to navel gaze, and editors are no different. It's a good time to reflect on what we write about, the importance of scientific innovation and why we do what we do. 

I think that term “scientific innovation” can sometimes be put in danger of overuse: Every biotech company tells me they are innovative, when not all are. And everyone will tell me that the patient is at the center of what they do, when that isn’t always true either.

We had this year two opposing forces in the Fierce 15 and our new Rotten Tomatoes feature. The first looks at true, early-stage innovation as we bet on what will be big in five  to 10 years’ time, and the second is seeking to name and shame those companies that have done things beyond the pale.

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They are both important, to elevate and to denigrate in equal measure, because everything the biotech industry does or doesn’t do has the potential to impact the life of everyone on this planet.

Now, doing what I do, I get a lot of hate mail in my inbox. Most of it comes from investors in companies that I didn’t write a gleaming review about, telling me that I should be in jail. Others have said they wish for me or my family to get the disease(s) I write about. This isn’t new, and not focused on just me, and I know many who cover the biotech space get this, and much worse, on a daily basis.

Well, this year, I lost two family members: one to Alzheimer’s and one to cancer, after a long and brave battle. What I write about has direct meaning to me: I want every drug and every trial to work, to beat out every placebo, and every other drug on the market; I want unbridled success for every company, because that means we can save and protect the ones we love. When drugs fail, or false hope is peddled for profit, this hurts all of us.

I take no pride in writing things such as Rotten Tomatoes but am immensely proud every year of the energy and enthusiasm I see in Fierce 15.

The cures for the diseases that have taken those we love could come from a small batch of scientists with a big idea and the backing of those who believe. That’s why journalists such as myself write about biomedical science. It’s real, and it can be genuinely awe-inspiring.

I’m thankful for all our readers and all those who have contributed to the science we have covered this year; I hope to see and speak to many more of you in 2018. For now, check out our view of what to look out for over the next 12 months: