issue Summer 2021

Leadership Message

By Dr. Wendy Rheault, Dr. Ronald S. Kaplan
Dr. Rheault on the afternoon she recorded remarks for RFU's 107th Commencement, held virtually on June 12.
Photo by Michael R. Schmidt

This issue of Helix magazine, dedicated to RFU research, arrives on the heels of our yearlong celebration of the life of Dr. Rosalind Franklin. That’s fitting. Marking the centennial of the birth of our namesake during a very difficult pandemic year gave us many opportunities to reflect on how she faced adversity with great determination.

The advances Dr. Franklin and her colleagues made in deciphering the structure of DNA, viruses and coal remind us that we don’t make scientific and medical discoveries in isolation, but through collaboration — the sharing of ideas and questions and expertise. Her insistence on fair treatment and her struggle for funding remind us that discovery can only advance through continual and equitable investment in science and the creation of new knowledge.

... we don’t make scientific and medical discoveries in isolation, but through collaboration — the sharing of ideas and questions and expertise.

RFU is committed to advancing discoveries that improve the health and well-being for future generations — and for communities here and now. The pandemic has been a call to action — to deepen and expand our community engagement through COVID-19 testing, diagnostics and vaccinations, in addition to our longstanding safety-net programs. We’re also moving to channel the needs and priorities of our local underserved communities whose residents bear an unequal burden of preventable and infectious disease.

In line with the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health Program, we aim to join forces across sectors to confront the social, economic and environmental barriers to good health faced by many of our closest neighbors. Working together, we plan to develop and test evidence-based strategies that improve health and access to care, while also helping shape more equitable systems that make it easier to be healthy. Our success depends on the trust we continue to build with our community partners, our shared vision, and the drive and dedication of RFU faculty, scientists, staff and students as we embrace community-based research.

Dr. Ronald S. Kaplan

We’re also fostering trust through the work of our disease-focused research centers. Our internationally-recognized scientists are working to translate their discoveries into new therapeutics for and prevention of devastating chronic and genetic diseases. Our Innovation and Research Park (IRP) and Helix 51 incubator, which houses, supports and accelerates young bioscience companies, have made strides despite the challenges of the pandemic. The IRP is an important investment in our community, one that will include opportunities for new jobs and student internships.

Both the IRP and Helix 51 are powered by collaboration among academic and  industry scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs with the goal of accelerating the development of our NIH-funded research in many areas, including neuroscience, genetic disease and cancer cell biology and immunology.

On so many fronts and across so many fields, health and technology are converging. New tools and platforms — genomic sequencing, CRISPR gene editing, AI — bring into sharper focus the path to a healthier, more equitable future. 

Thank you for your continued support.