As COVID restrictions roll back, business leaders are peeking out of their foxholes, wondering if it’s safe to bring the troops back to headquarters. It’s a fair question – to which, one might answer, “Sure, but what’s the rush?”

One of the more cynical attacks on our industry goes something like this: “Taxpayers fund medical research through research grants, so they should get the benefits of any discoveries, not the greedy pharma companies.” I’m sure you’ve heard it. Politicians and pundits of all stripes love to reinforce the idea that pharma is gorging at the public trough – that all we do is gobble up federal grants as seed money for our outrageously priced nostrums. 

It ain’t coming back. We won’t hangout in a conference room to drink Diet Coke and brainstorm SWOTs. We won’t be presenting (or enduring) dog-and-pony pitches anytime soon. I wouldn’t count on adding lunch-and-learns, donut drop-offs, and steakhouse dinner meetings to my promotional tactics. And we shouldn’t be surprised if four-day medical convention junkets go the way of Mad Men and the three-martini lunch. 

Perhaps the synergy of federal spending and pharma/biotech ingenuity we witnessed during Operation Warp Speed should continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic to address other medical crises. Turning the race for a vaccine into something like the 1889 Oklahoma land rush was a masterstroke.

Naming a column the “Cutting Edge” in these times may seem presumptuous. Not too long ago, “cutting edge” meant the cusp of innovation, the tech pathway to fantastic discoveries and business success. Who wouldn’t want to be out there? Today, the cutting edge we’re facing is like something out of a horror film – a whirling relentless blade that’s lopping off established institutions with relentless energy and unprecedented speed. Workplace? What’s that? Workforce? Who are they? Economy? Who knows?