SMITHFIELD, RI – "Science combined with business can help solve the problems of the human race," Dr. Andrey Zarur ‘21H, P’24 told a group of about 100 students at an Oct. 14 panel discussion on the status of COVID-19 around the world. The panel was part of the “Healthcare in America” fall panel series, presented by Bryant’s Center for Health and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS).
“The decisions you make here affect the rest of the world, and what happens in the rest of the world will come back and affect what happens here.”
Zarur, who is the Founder, President and CEO of Greenlight Biosciences in Medford, MA, returned to Bryant in person this fall to provide an update on the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution after participating in a virtual panel last spring.
After completing his Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and working on effective treatments and cures for childhood diseases for many years, the scientist-turned-entrepreneur realized he’d need to learn more about business in order to “bring science to reality” – expanding the reach and benefits of these scientific advancements beyond the United States and Europe. Today, Zarur and his team of scientists at Greenlight Biosciences are focused on solving some of the world’s greatest challenges in human health (including vaccines), animal health, and food production through the use of ribonucleic acid (RNA).
What about Africa?
With vaccination rates in the U.S. and Europe close to 80%, COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths are declining. But, the story is very different in other parts of the world including Africa, Latin American and Southeast Asian countries where only about 4% of the population is vaccinated.
“So, why should we in the United States care about Africa?” Zarur challenged students to consider.
“Because we need to think beyond ourselves and help others,” one student answered.
“Because it helps the global economy,” offered another.
Both answers are correct, and there’s also another very practical consideration, Zarur explained. As infection rates increase in less developed, highly populated countries, the higher the chance of more potentially deadly variants against which current vaccines may not be effective. “Unless we vaccinate all of those people, [everyone] will remain in danger.”
“This generation will have the opportunity to affect a new way of doing business.”
Solving this problem requires a global, interdisciplinary approach, which highlights the importance of an education that integrates business and science. Advancements in science and technology far outpace advancements in business. The current decision making about vaccine development and distribution is profit-driven and politically motivated. In fact, big pharma lobbying costs are three times what is spent on creating more efficient manufacturing systems to reduce costs and expand vaccine distribution around the world.
“Business systems work with the same behavior and reward systems as 100 years ago,” noted Zarur, adding that this is the first generation to truly experience the interconnectivity and interdependencies of the global economy and culture. “This generation will have the opportunity to affect a new way of doing business.”
“The decisions you make here affect the rest of the world, and what happens in the rest of the world will come back and affect what happens here," said Zarur.
"A broad understanding of the interconnectedness of global economies and cultures is critical to the success of our students and their ability to create positive change in their companies, communities, and around the world.”
“This [Bryant’s integration of business and the arts and sciences] is exactly why I came to Bryant,” said Veronica McComb, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “And this is what I want to build on. A broad understanding of the interconnectedness of global economies and cultures is critical to the success of our students and their ability to create positive change in their companies, communities, and around the world.”
“The differentiating value of Bryant’s programs in Science and Technology is our interdisciplinary approach to education at the intersection of business and science," says Kirsten Hokeness, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Science and Technology and Director of the Center for Health and Behavioral Sciences. “Our programs leverage the strength of Bryant’s business core with deep knowledge of science disciplines to become a premier choice for students pursuing a career in health sciences, health care, or behavioral sciences.”
The “Healthcare in America” panel series, presented by Bryant’s Center for Health and Behavioral Sciences, features renowned national leaders speaking critical healthcare issues for our time. On Oct. 7, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative spoke to the Bryant community about Flint Michigan water crisis. Dr. Andrey Zarur provided a global perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic on Oct. 14, and on Nov. 3, Dr. Jerome Adams, the 20th Surgeon General of the United States will talk about the future of healthcare in America. More information on the “Healthcare in America” panel series is available here.