This week, I spent a few days at an R&D facility belonging to one of PhRMA's member companies. This isn't the first time I've been able to tour a research lab, but this particular trip provided me with incredibly enlightening face time with many members of the staff there.
From vaccines to intellectual property to global security, I had the chance to learn how this company goes about its business - not just from a policy standpoint - like how we at PhRMA tend to focus our attention - but every day.
Despite all that I learned, though, the most profound realization I had was about the experience as a whole.
Each person I met demonstrated remarkable commitment and relentless drive. They were passionate and inspired - and they were inspiring.
They spoke of loved ones who now benefit from medicines made by their employer and they spoke of the ways in which the reality of their work differs from the common misconceptions of others.
They also showed how much patience and hope is required to do the work they do. One researcher, a chemist in the formulations lab, said that just one medicine that she had worked over the last 13 years has made it to Phase III trials - and even then, due to a failed trial, made it no further. She was not derailed by this. Another, an imaging expert, shared 3D imaging of an enzyme with me - as well as the compound they are developing to try to fight it - and explained how many years it had taken to develop the compound this far, and how many years were to go. He was not discouraged.
These experts are skilled at overcoming setbacks and forging ahead. And though they all came from different departments within this company, they all echoed the same message: they do it for the patients whose lives may one day be better.