Michael Fossel Michael is President of Telocyte

March 1, 2016

Changing the World

Perseverance is critical to innovation.

If you try to change the world, you might fail, but if you don’t try, you will certainly fail. In 1616, the church banned Galileo’s theory that the Earth went around the sun, which is now accepted as obviously true. Relativity and quantum theory were once derided by classical physicists, physicists who are now mocked, if not utterly forgotten. Twelve separate publishers turned down J K Rowling’s first book, the first of a series that have so far netted her an estimated one billion dollars and resulted in a brand, itself worth 15 billion dollars. No matter the advance in science, medicine, or the arts, the greater the importance and the greater the innovation, the more it was fought against by those who “knew” better.

The larger the crowd, the louder the cries, the less the truth can be heard.

Today, I was on a call with a major global investor who, data notwithstanding, cannot see how age-related disease can possibly be altered. Despite their investing in a biotech company that focuses on epigenetics, they cannot see how epigenetics can offer anything for age-related disease. Where once astronomers ignored the data and struggled to fit our solar system into epicycles, we now ignore the data, give lip service to epigenetics, and ignore the profound clinical implications that lie immediately in front of us.

Age-related diseases – whether Alzheimer’s, arteriosclerosis, osteoarthritis, or a host of others – are not diseases of “bad genes”, but bad gene expression. Once we look afresh at what causes disease, once we look honestly at the data, once we examine our assumptions and realize we have been wrong, the potential for curing disease, for making our lives better, for bringing hope becomes clear. We believe what the crowd believes, we listen to the loudest voices, while closing our eyes and ears to reality, as though we feared to understand it.

Someday we will look back at age-related disease and (as has so often been true in a myriad of other cases), we will ask what was the key that finally led to progress. The key is not genius, hard work, knowledge, funding, or even insight. The key is to keep going, even when the world seems bent on remaining foolish and bent on keeping you from making the world a better place. No matter how many people, blinders in place, tell you that something can’t be done, that you can’t do it, and that your view is wrong, follow logic, look at the data, think clearly, keep your mind open, examine your assumptions, and – above all – keep going.

The key isn’t genius, but perseverance.

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