The Friday Fermentable: A Mentor Gets A Well-Deserved Break

This morning our dear friend and colleague whose wine escapades often fill this spot awoke to the rewards of retirement. My senior cancer research colleague, Erleichda, has just closed the book on 30 years with a single pharmaceutical company, unheard of in today’s climate of layoffs and jumping from one company to the next.
My friend began in this industry when it was still considered a noble pursuit and continued to be an ambassador for all that is good about pharmaceutical research & development, with his primary concern the welfare of those stricken with cancer and the cultivation of junior scientists who sought to join in his mission. Although I only came to know him during the last decade of his distinguished career, the man shared with me many lessons of how to live life, how to carry oneself as a scientist, and how to stand up for principle in the face of the harsh economic realities of today’s pharmaceutical industry.
What particularly resonated with me about this gentleman was his understanding and respect for the scientific pioneers who came before us but who are still with us. Long after their own institutions had cast aside these senior scientists who no longer contributed directly to “the bottom line,” Erleichda treated these mentors of his own with the reverence and respect they deserved – and earned.
His excitement and passion for this scientific life is obvious any time we meet. The first time he met PharmGirl, a breast oncologist who had just witnessed one of his own drugs work wonders in a patient of her own, he grabbed her by the hand and took her across the convention center to meet the chemist who had first synthesized this very drug (from a natural product, of course). Bringing together the bench chemist and the clinician to share stories of their joint battle against cancer was just one example of the enthusiasm he has for sharing this journey and making everyone feel included and valued, no matter what role they play.
And, obviously, his joie de’vivre comes across in every column he writes for these Friday Fermentable pages.
So, today, he begins a new chapter with his life partner, the intrepid Sweetpea, another behind-the-scenes benefactor to this blog and blogger. I understand there are now other overseas trips in store involving winetasting and hiking – we wish them well and look forward to learning of their travels.
To my dear friend and colleague, thank you for setting such a stellar example for me to emulate – as both a gentleman and a scientist.

6 thoughts on “The Friday Fermentable: A Mentor Gets A Well-Deserved Break

  1. Thank you for the nice tribute to Erleichda!!! Heard several equally wonderful ones at his retirement bash last night.
    Hoping that we still get to see you, and perhaps I too might get to meet Pharmgirl and Pharmkid!!

  2. I’ve awoke a bit groggy this morning after a late night send off retirement party. Sweetpea says I’m to read your blog. ….Blush….Thank you for your kind words, Pb.:_)

  3. I’m a government bench scientist in cancer research, and we’re usually biased against industry. Our contact with them is minimal, such as watching the weekly banquets of food they cater for the clinicians in our building (a closed door event) and the always stressful every four year site visit. Still, I can appreciate how hard it would be to maintain a balance between answering to the stock holders and actually trying to do some good in the world.

  4. gillt, from what I know of positions like yours it still pays to cultivate relationships with pharma researchers. When NIH researchers get a drug so far, even to clinical trials, one must still find a corporate sponsor to get the thing on the market (I suspect you already know this.).
    But I know the events of which you speak and would say to not conflate marketing and sales people with pharma R&D researchers. The latter are just like you and I – but instead of balancing the need for pubs and intramural/extramural funding, they have the time pressure of the patent clock ticking and competing internally for support while also worrying about stockholder returns.

  5. It was bittersweet to see my good friend retire on Fri. Sad that I might not see him every day at work but glad that his presence is still here at our company because of his high level of ethics and his ability to be a mentor to dozens of young investigators. This is a legacy that one cannot place a value on in an age where hard profit driven corporate goals and mergers which dominate our industry. However, I do console myself that we have many journeys to take for discovering the “next new vintage or grape” in our quest for vineferous nirvana. I raise my glass to my friend and colleage to wish him a happy and fufilling retirement. By the way, I was a little hung over after the party also. Mazel Tov!

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