Learning at the Intersection of Life Sciences and PR

Someone once told me that the best thing you can do as a PR person is to be an expert in your client’s business. I’ve taken this wisdom to heart as we expand our life sciences PR practice. It’s a challenge being an expert in a world that is not only heady and nuanced but is also changing every day; discoveries and innovations continue to redefine what we know about ourselves and the world around us.

At Bateman Group we are working with life sciences companies like Ginkgo Bioworks, Synthego and Opentrons. In doing this work we are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of the biological universe — and how we can engineer it — right alongside our clients.

To know where we’re going we must first understand where we’ve been. When it comes to life sciences, there’s no better way to learn than to get hands-on experience. Luckily, organizations like GenSpace give anyone the opportunity to build a strong biotech foundation.

I joined GenSpace’s three-part Biotech Crash Course for a refresher on the basics of biology — DNA, RNA, transcription and translation — as well as biotech techniques like gel electrophoresis and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. We put these techniques to work by testing and amplifying our DNA to learn more about our origins. We also engineered E. Coli to glow under a fluorescent light.

life sciences PR

I came away with a stronger understanding of how and why we can use biology to design organisms or engineer our genome. Here’s what else I learned:

I love science. Biology is weird and wonderful and something to be appreciated, studied and respected. It’s also something people can and should engineer in cases that profoundly benefit our society or help us lead longer and healthier lives. For instance, one of our clients is engineering plants so we can reduce our dependence on greenhouse-gas-causing fertilizer; another is making it easier to use CRISPR, which could enable cures for rare diseases that aren’t being addressed by big pharma companies. At Genspace I learned about a group of students using biotech principles to clean poisonous chemicals out of the Gowanus Canal.

The world needs better science communicators. Fear and avoidance take hold in the absence of understanding and education about scientific advancements (see: the mass public dismissal of GMOs no matter the context). We need more people who can understand the science behind hyper-complex topics and translate them into language that resonates with the public.

Biology is the next big technology. It’s also the next bit fashion medium, manufacturing platform and so much more. The potential of biology to transform industries is becoming apparent as VCs pour money into the sector at a rapid clip. Seeing such a diverse makeup of our small class — students, startup founders, journalists, a retired doctor, a designer, an engineer, a community activist and a PR practitioner — really brought the bright and extensive future of bioengineering to life.