Last week, I had the privilege of touring the Vertex Pharmaceuticals building in Boston. Since the new building went up in the seaport district, I have driven by it many times, trying to snap photos out of the window or on the sidewalk. The fact that this company, that would ultimately create a drug that would change my life, has ben right in my backyard is really cool. I’ve been following the developments of CF drugs from Vertex since I was in high school almost 10 years ago. While I was off living my life, waiting around for something that would save it… there were people both here in Boston and in San Diego going to work every day for the sole purpose of figuring out how to save lives. It was all put into perspective when I met some of those people.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I walked through the doors of the Vertex building. After all, woven into those stories about all of the progress Vertex had made were the facts, opinions, and analysis about the expensive price of the drug. And though I could write another whole post about my thoughts about capitalism and the labor market and the way it all creates progress and innovation, I still knew I was walking into a business and was weary of the line between profit and very real impact these products have on people’s lives.
But Vertex’s people showed me otherwise.
I walked in and immediately noticed a quote in the lobby by a 25 year old with CF about how she breathes and appreciates every day. Then, I went upstairs and talked to people who were deeply entrenched in the lives of people like me, who could talk about inspirational CFers who I knew too, who understood the inner-workings of the drug I swallowed every morning and night, who were deeply concerned and invested in the CF community, and who were proud of the company they worked for.
I met scientists who used their knowledge to search, day in and day out, for cures and treatments for rare diseases… diseases, and people, forgotten by larger, more consistently profitable organizations. I learned that every day was rooted in failure, after testing hundreds of thousands of compounds and going back to the drawing board when those compounds didn’t work. And I learned that still, day by day, those people returned and walked back through the doors of the Vertex building to persist and pursue their passions so that a 25 year old with CF, like me, could live a longer life. Each person I met was excited about that kind of work.
I saw an office plastered in tweets and photos about the excitement of Vertex’s success: parents of young children excited for the chance at a normal life, words of thanks to a company who persisted, photos of beautiful lives that still exist thanks to a company that invested in progress. I saw a wall covered in photos of the CF community, the voices and stories of all of us at the forefront of everything its employees do.
I heard the motivation in their voices when they said “there is still so much more to be done” to find drugs that work for other CF mutations. How, although they celebrated both CF drugs they have developed, they recognized that the fight is far from over and they will not stop until they save more lives both in the CF community and for people with all sorts of different diseases.
I’m writing this because we might not know everything that went into that box of medication that arrives on our doorstep. We might not know the people who worked tirelessly to get that drug into our medicine cabinet and we might not understand all of the intricacies involved. We might not appreciate that there are people investing in our lives every single day. But those people deserve to know how much they are appreciated, how important their jobs are, and how huge of an impact they have on our lives. Thank you Vertex, for all of your persistence, for being a company that sees the bigger picture but who also recognizes each individual life you impact, and thank you, personally, for changing mine.