For the last 7 years and 5 months, I have been at a company called Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, named after its founder, Dr. Anji Reddy. It is the world’s ninth largest generic pharmaceutical company.
There are two types of companies in the pharmaceutical industry: the innovator companies that discover and develop patented new medicines, and the generic companies, like Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, which develop and manufacture medicines whose patents have expired.
Earlier in my career, I also spent a similar amount of time working for an innovator company. That side of the industry is the glamorous side. The huge profit margins on patented medicines also make their work environments more extravagant.
Many of my former colleagues from the innovator side may have thought I took a step down by joining a generic pharmaceutical company.
Yet my time at Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has been the adventure of a lifetime!
I traveled to India and Russia and Germany and many more places, immersing into those cultures.
The company enabled me to finally step foot onto Cambridge University, an institution that for eight hundred years has been a beacon to original minds, contributing to the scientific revolution. I visited the landmark sites where fundamental scientific discoveries were made that changed the world: calculus, the electron, and DNA, among others. It was a stirring moment to finally connect with the birthplace of the ideas that I learned in my first readings of science and which launched me onto my career path.
The company enabled me to return to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My first visit to MIT, decades ago, was to give a presentation for a postdoctoral position. The night before my talk, I was unable to sleep. I was overcome with emotion. MIT was chartered in the midst of the industrial revolution to harness the scientific and technological advances contemporary to its times to aid in the advancement of its country. Its achievements ever since have left an indelible reputation on inventorship. I was overcome with emotion, because I could feel the intellectual challenge placed upon those who came to this school. I never accepted that postdoctoral position, because I wanted to work in industry. Yet finally with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, I was able to return and work alongside scientists at MIT, and I can still call some of them friends.
Most important of all, my time at Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has only increased my appreciation for the work of generic drug companies. It is generic pharmaceuticals that make medicines affordable for patients all around the world.
Dr Reddy’s Laboratories was one of the first to pioneer this generic drug industry. Its name is famous across India for inspiring a nation of people to do something grander on the global stage.
Within the pharmaceutical industry, I have learned that the development and manufacture of generic medicines requires scientific and business innovation in their own way.
Sadly, I will no longer be toiling alongside my former colleagues, in our joint effort to make the world better, by helping patients who need affordable medicines.
I shared with my colleagues, the following, which I share with anyone about to pivot between two vast endeavors:
Dear friends, while this day is my last day at Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, it is merely another day in our journey together.
What is this journey?
In a venerable commencement address, Steve Jobs’ wish for graduates was to “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
Two months before his death, educator Horace Mann beseeched graduates of his college to “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
Our mutual journey is this arc that spans from our entry into vocation through to the rest of our lives.
It is the steps we take in this arc to make family, friend, or colleague to become better.
When we take many of these steps, and when our steps intersect, the connected links in our lives’ endeavors are constellations. Each constellation plots the story of the greater victory that we as its participants won together.
Dr. Anji Reddy said “I want to build a company that’d last 500 years” to provide affordable medicines to people around the world. This is one constellation that our lives are illuminating.
There is only one human way for us to link to any eminent accomplishment:
EDITH: Whatever it is, let me help.
KIRK: “Let me help.” A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He’ll recommend those three words even over “I love you.”
EDITH: Centuries from now? Who is he? Where does he come from, where will he come from?
KIRK: Silly question. Want to hear a silly answer?
KIRK: A planet circling that far left star in Orion’s belt.
“The City on the Edge of Forever,” Star Trek (The Original Series): 1967, by Harlan Ellison
Whether we are in Hyderabad or Moscow or Princeton or Augsburg or Cambridge or Leiden, our stars will shine only if we help each other.
Meaningful endeavors are universal. Constellations are seen and shared by all nations, guiding weary travelers and comforting lost souls. They are celestial mythologies that tell us what is enduringly purposeful, millions of years before we were even here, and millions of years henceforth, as we journey together on this ark that is our planet.
May we be engaged in our journey together, and may we have a purpose to speak again.
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May we all find a purpose to speak to each other in the future, as we engage in our journey together!