By Samantha Truex, CEO of Quench Bio, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC
In the fall of 2019, I wrote a blog called Ode to Patients. As stresses from many directions have mounted over the past 12 months, it seems that paying heed to another group now makes sense: scientists.
Scientists have been working diligently in labs across the country throughout this pandemic. Like so many other scientists, our lab team at Quench Bio truly loves to work. After only one week of shut down in March 2020, they were eager to get back to the lab. They took it upon themselves to arrange a schedule to work one person at a time in our suite at LabCentral. As understanding of viral transmission improved, the team adjusted the schedule to have 2 and then 3 people in the lab at a time. This approach was not unique to our small team at Quench Bio, of course. Countless scientists across the industry got back to the lab with haste, both in biopharma companies and in the many contract research and supplier companies that make our work possible.
Our Quench team was fortunate to join many other biotech companies in arranging a routine PCR testing service whose turnaround is remarkable. The swift test results have given our team members comfort to be in the lab together. For that swift turnaround, we have to thank yet more lab scientists. We offer massive kudos to the scientists of The Broad Institute’s COVID testing service. Serving companies and schools across New England, The Broad has accepted test samples 24/7 for months. They must have an army of scientists working around the clock to process samples so that the rest of us can proceed in our work.
The many scientists who have worked on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies have also been widely heralded, as they should be. The country, indeed the world, should laud their dedication and their rise to the occasion when our profession is most needed.
In my Ode to Patients blog, I mentioned having hope despite perception of our industry being rated at the bottom in the 2019 industry Gallup Poll. In the September 2020 version of the same Gallup Poll, we rose up one from the bottom – beating out only the federal government. I don’t think that bar was very high. I still hold out hope that the efforts of our amazing scientists in 2020 and 2021 will finally improve perceptions of our efforts, as is deserved.
Coming back to Quench Bio, I offer a snapshot of the dedication of just one small team of scientists as a representation of what I know is happening across the industry.
As we announced earlier in March, Quench Bio came to the conclusion recently that we should wind down operations.
When I think of all the stresses on our Quench Bio scientists during 2020 and early 2021, piling the pandemic with a government in chaos and science that was not playing out, I am all the more appreciative of our scientists’ commitment to stick with our team through the ups and downs of the roller coaster we rode for the last 12 months. Many experiments did not work out as planned. With seemingly endless enthusiasm, our lab team repeated assays, pivoted to new assay development, assessed equivocal data, took on deep data analytics beyond what our CROs did, caught errors made by CROs that required us to re-start some activities, drove hours on end to pick up reagents that were needed same-day … I could go on and on.
Our team members worked well together and appreciated each other immensely. We often commented on what a great team we were fortunate to have and what a roller coaster ride we were sharing. The roller coaster was even the theme of our 2020 year in review book.
What our Quench team didn’t talk about as openly, but did recognize, was the non-work contribution to the roller coaster.
As Bruce Booth so eloquently pointed out in his recent blog Personal Reflection: Empathy in the Workplace, there is often so much more going on in a colleague’s life than is evident at work.
In response to Bruce’s blog, Praveen Tipirneni posted a link to this powerful video from the Cleveland Clinic. If you have not watched it, I recommend you take the 4.5 minutes to view it. You’ll see that every person in every scene has more going on than meets the eye:
Like Bruce’s blog, this is a worthy reminder that we should be curious and considerate of what’s happening in the lives of people around us.
For the Quench team, there were many stresses beyond those of assays not validating and CROs mis-labeling data. I recognized some, yet there are probably many stresses about which I still remain unaware. If we had made a Quench video analogous to the one linked above from the Cleveland Clinic, we would have displayed hard-working and ever-smiling scientists with captions like the following:
2 elementary school kids trying to learn virtually while fighting over one laptop
Elderly father ill and needs surgery during pandemic
Concerned about child going to in-person school
Putting off engagement due to pandemic
Need flight to see dying father abroad; quarantine rules may mean missing him
Taking turns caring for 2-year-old with daycare closed during pandemic
Pandemic prevents return to home and family for the holidays
High school kids seeking SAT test site and choosing colleges without visiting
Need to fly tomorrow to help with family medical emergency
Closing on a home the week we shut down the company
All this, and yet still the smiles, the dedication, the problem-solving and the positive attitudes have abounded. I am amazed; I feel privileged and I am proud to work with such incredibly resilient scientists. I know our Quench Bio team is just one fine example of the resilience across our industry.
All my respect to you, dear scientists. I appreciate all you do.