It’s simple. Science works. And when we trust in science, we all win.

Science is not a debate. It’s not a feeling or an opinion. It is a methodical process of research and verification that we have come to trust. And as scientists, it’s that trust that leads us toward better treatments, new cures, and a hope-filled future we can share together.

When we understand the value of scientific discovery, we win. Because not only does science work, it works for all of us.

If you support the dedicated people who are researching new treatments and cures, you’re not alone.

There’s never been a more critical time to understand that #ScienceWorks.

Museum Explorer. Supermom. Senior Scientist.

Your life can change on a dime. This was the case for a young girl named Denarra Simmons who never expected to become a scientist, let alone a biopharmaceutical senior researcher. It began one day when a traveling salesman stopped by her parents’ house in Irvington, New Jersey. He was selling encyclopedias - the full, glorious, gold embossed set - and Denarra convinced her family to buy them even though they could scarcely afford it. Denarra was fascinated by the volumes and the knowledge they held. As it turned out, poring over this trove of information sparked a lifelong passion for learning.

A few years later at her school’s career day, a chemist stood in front of Denarra’s class to explain how he created drugs that helped sick people. As he drew chemical structures on the board, the Black chemist in a lab coat was something Denarra had never seen before. This became another turning point in her life when suddenly, a career in science was possible for her.

Denarra attended a high school summer program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and fell in love with biochemistry. And from the group lunches she’d have with the other high schoolers that summer, she met a classmate who would later become her husband. Her passion for science continued through her college career. She’d stay late in the lab, splitting cells and documenting the results. The hours passed quickly because, for Denarra, it never felt like work.

Today, Denarra is a Senior Scientist running tests to determine the stability of new drugs. She helps predict potential effects a treatment can have which is one of the most important phases in the formulation of a new medication. Those insert labels on the medicines in your bathroom cabinet? You might just be reading the results of Denarra’s findings.

Denarra and her husband, daughter and son, now live on the same block in Newark where her mother grew up. They love going to the Newark Museum of Art together, something Denarra grew up doing with her family. On the weekends, her kids show her the latest dances on TikTok. Maybe one day, they’ll get her to do one. Until then, Denarra never misses an opportunity to teach them the basics of science – even while making dinner. There are ingredient reactions, changing states, and differing chemical properties. She says, “After all, cooking is just science you can eat.”

Mountain Biker. Devoted Father. Biotech Scientist.

Three times a week, Mark Davis covers some serious terrain on his bike. It’s a way to unwind after time in the lab where he’s a Principal Process Engineer in gene therapies tech research. Hitting the trails also gives him time to reflect on the path that led him to this exact spot today.

When he was 10, Mark lost his mother to breast cancer. That’s not something you ever get over, but it’s possible to find and understand different ways to process a loss that profound. In high school and college, Mark was drawn to science but didn’t think much of it. He loved reading and there happened to be a revival of the science fiction genre in the 90s. Mark embraced everything from the sci-fi fantasies of Louis McMaster Bujold to the time travel novels of Connie Willis.

At the same time, biotechnology was evolving. The gene therapy field was a newer discipline than traditional cancer treatments and, as he saw it, a way “to get back at cancer.” Mark leveraged his Bachelors in Philosophy from Syracuse University into a Masters in Biological Science from the University of Massachusetts.

It was in the early 2000s when one of his co-workers was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and Mark’s career path became more defined. A drug was being developed to treat this kind of lymphoma and it wasn’t long before he found himself in the position of lead scientist in the manufacturing of the very drug he’d been studying for his friend’s cancer treatment. That’s when it clicked for him. It was as if everything in his life had led him to that role.

His day-to-day work has been largely unchanged by COVID-19. Mark works in the lab every day running experiments to ensure consistency and reliability of new therapies. The work is steady yet urgent. There are just fewer people around which suits him fine.

The Davis family and their terrier mix rescue dog live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Mark and his six-year-old son bike together and play with radio-controlled trucks, because you’re never too old to play with RC toy vehicles. And there is the occasional bear sighting, but that’s all in a day’s work for a family who thrives in nature.

Wellness Enthusiast. Above Average Baker. Senior Research Associate.

Adriana Tovar-Salazar can recall the moment she fell in love with science. Ninth grade. A lesson on protein synthesis. And she was, to put it in her words, “blown away.” How could she know that one class was about to shape the course of her life?

While she was in high school, her family moved from Bogotá, Colombia, to New York City so they could be reunited with her father who worked in the States. In college, Adriana focused on marine science but when her father was diagnosed with colon cancer, she began involving herself in conversations with his doctors and oncologists. Her father passed away, and with this loss came the strong motivation for her to pursue her interests in biochemistry and cancer research. Adriana received her Masters in Applied and Recombinant DNA Technology at NYU which was the beginning of her pursuit to understand how something as clinical as science can connect each of us on such a deep, personal level.

Adriana started working in the pharmaceutical industry about a year ago. Of course, none of us could have foreseen what 2020 would bring, but she has adapted to the changing landscape that COVID-19 brings. The day-to-day challenges are mostly solvable. No gym membership? The kettlebells in a corner of the living room work just fine. Wellness inspiration? She follows fitness gurus on Instagram. Limited indoor dining at local restaurants? She bakes bread at home which reminds her of helping out at her grandparents’ panadería in Bogotá.

She finds her work in biopharmaceuticals fulfilling and endlessly fascinating. Adriana is in the lab about 2-3 days a week where she researches CAR T-cells and cancer therapies. She is part of an early research team whose purpose is to find new ways to engineer patients’ immune cells to treat their cancers. Their ultimate goal is to have a positive and lasting impact on patients.

Though her journey has led her from South America to the U.S. from coast to coast, her North has always been science. It’s the calm in the chaos and it’s what keeps her grounded. And after all, there’s nothing quite like that first love.

Adriana and her fiance live in Seattle. They are settling into a new home where they co-parent his two energetic young kids.

For Media

If you’re a reporter interested in covering #ScienceWorks, you’ll find the resources you need here.

Please direct media inquiries to:

Colorado

Sean Duffy: sean@thekenneygroup.com

New Jersey

Terri O'Connell: terri@fuzzyslippersmarketing.com

Washington

Rick Desimone: rick@desimonecg.com

Max Brown: max@desimonecg.com

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