That’s Will Smith up there, talking to Dr. Bennett Omalu about the movie “Concussion,” which Will starred in and is based on the life of Dr. Omalu. The trailer tells you enough, but the idea is Dr. Omalu came to America and discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), and when he raised the flag on this disease to the National Football League (NFL), they tried to keep it buried. This is a still-unfolding story in the world of sports. It’s been suggested the movie was “softened” to avoid antagonizing the NFL, and the NFL has pulled funding for studies examining the effects on the brain of repeated head trauma. There is growing evidence that football players, especially at the highest levels where the competition is fastest and the hits hardest (caution: the video makes me queasy), are putting their bodies at severe risk. The list of players with confirmed CTE is quickly growing, yet the NFL is hardly tackling this issue head on, if I may use that analogy here.
Will Smith and Dr. Bennett Omalu relate to biotech in one specific way: they are the keynote speakers at the BIO International Convention in San Francisco this year, on Tuesday, June 7, at 9 am. This might seem an odd choice for biotech industry meeting, but I’d point out that I’ve never been bored at BIO’s keynotes, whether it was Jim Greenwood interviewing Richard Branson or his talk with Hillary Clinton, or Benjamin Carson giving the plenary speech in 2002, back when he was just chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins and before he was a presidential candidate.
The rest of my time at BIO will be spent meeting with industry people, sitting in on panel discussions and mingling at receptions. It’s one of the biggest biotech gatherings of the year, if not the biggest, and it’s a hectic, productive four days. Nature will have a booth in the exhibit hall; stop by if you get a chance.