Davos hero: Elisabet de los Pinos

Davos hero: biotech pioneer

When I sat down last night at dinner I was facing Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Materials, a clean-tech firm that’s had good success in the past year, with about 450 employees.

He quickly whispered in my ear that I must meet Elisabet de los Pinos. He said “she is doing work that could win the Nobel Prize in less than 10 years.”

I’m looking for heroes at Davos. People who I can show my sons and nieces as examples of people they should emulate as they go through college.

Along the journey of my life I’ve met and interviewed thousands of people, but Elisabet stands alone, even in the rarified air of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

She’s the founder and president of Aura Biosciences. Just look at the press she’s accumulating, like this article in TIME.

What has she done? Found a way to deliver chemotherapy directly to cancer without delivering the poison to other parts of a cancer patient’s body.

Potentially world-changing work.

But, there’s a reason that I see her as a hero.

1. She’s a scientist. I wish our media would present more images of scientists like her, who are doing world-changing work, and fewer images of people like Paris Hilton. Young people need to see that science is fun, and talking with her you get inspired about science again.
2. She’s approachable. With her warm smile she puts a friendly face on a difficult part of science: working at 25 nanometer-wide nanoparticles. She makes it easy to understand what she’s doing, and that’s a skill that very few scientists have.
3. She isn’t cynical. Talking with her she is clearly an idealist. She believes she can find a way to get her innovations out to both rich and poor. She hasn’t yet lost the sparkle in her eye. Translation: the pharma industry hasn’t beaten her down yet and I hope it never does.

Anyway, I hope to get an interview with her soon so you can see what I saw, that she is one of the heroes that we should introduce to our kids to inspire them to do great things with their lives.

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I’m doing a series of interviews with interesting people I meet at the World Economic Forum. Here’s the ones I’ve done on the first morning:

1. Huffington Post CEO, Eric Hippeau talking with me and Henry Blodget, founder of Business Insider. Some interesting insights into the future of news. Henry is blogging about his Davos experience here.

2. Price Waterhouse Cooper Chairman, Robert E Moritz, talking about its annual CEO survey (you can find the survey here).

3. CEO of Cognizant, Francico D’Souza, who manages 100,000 employees, says they are noticing that employees who blog, even internally, are more loyal than employees who don’t.

4. CEO of Forrester, one of the big tech analyst firms, talks to me about what he’s noticing in the tech industry. He says some surprising things, especially about Google and Microsoft.

Comments

  1. The most important take away from this post……. “She’s a scientist. I wish our media would present more images of scientists like her, who are doing world-changing work, and fewer images of people like Paris Hilton. Young people need to see that science is fun, and talking with her you get inspired about science again.”

    Thanks Robert

  2. A positive post indeed, thank you! But: after having met maybe not thousands but some hundred scientists, I dare to add, that there are, among young and old of them, a vast amount of brilliant minds loaded with optimism, who also are capable of exchanging ideas i.e. not only talking but also listening :) Although the social media has given some room for their ideas, a lot more could be available.

  3. “she is doing work that could win the Nobel Prize in less than 10 years.”

    Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel prize this past year for Graphene.

    http://www.startupgazette.com/2010/11/in-5-years-you-will-be-wearing-your-ipad-thanks-to-graphene/

    “She believes she can find a way to get her innovations out to both rich and poor.”

    I would love to see some poor people get the first run of Graphene based tablet computers. Please do a story on that.

  4. Robert, I had not heard of Elisabet (that I recall, although she looks familiar to me). Thanks for posting this. I look forward to your follow-up interview and more info.

  5. You should check out Mark Tercek, CEO at The Nature Conservancy. They’re doing some interesting work to get businesses and the private sector to view environmental protection as a way to add to the bottom line. It’s a strategy that really goes beyond philanthropy.

  6. Robert, there’s a guy here in AZ you should meet- Allan Cameron. He’s a real-life Jaime Escalante from that movie “Stand and Deliver.” He mentored 4 inner-city high school students in Phoenix to compete in a underwater robotics challenge awhile back and they went on to 1st place beating out the MIT team. With access to very little resources they had to get very creative on solving problems. I got a chance to interview him and he’s an amazing unsung hero like your friend Elisabet. That interview here if you’re interested:
    http://www.grid7.com/archives/187_podcast-27-allan-cameron-of-carl-hayden-high-school.html

  7. ” I wish our media would present more images of scientists like her, who are doing world-changing work, and fewer images of people like Paris Hilton. Young people need to see that science is fun, and talking with her you get inspired about science again.” Amen !