Dr. Frank Douglas
Dr. Frank L. Douglas is a rock star ...
... of science.
Douglas — president, CEO and chief strategist of Akron’s Austen BioInnovation Institute — was recently honored as one of the 2010 Rock Stars of Science and featured with musician Jay Sean in a pictorial spread in GQ magazine’s December issue.
The only recipient from Ohio, Douglas is part of an elite group of 16 other “scientific heroes” honored, including Nobel Laureate Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn, president of the American Association for Cancer Research, and medical researchers from such institutions as Johns Hopkins, Stanford University Medical School and Columbia University.
The Rock Stars of Science is a collaborative effort among Geoffrey Beene Gives Back®, GQ and the Entertainment Industry Foundation/SU2C to bring together celebrity musicians and the nation’s top medical researchers — to help bridge the gap between science and pop culture, to attract the next generation of students and to create awareness regarding how research saves lives and drives economic growth.
National surveys confirm that a greater awareness is needed: Nearly half of the people polled couldn’t name a single living scientist.
Can you? (Hint: Dr. Douglas!)
What’s the role of the Austen BioInnovation Institute?
ABIA — which is an exceptional collaboration of Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Health System, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, Summa Health System, The University of Akron and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation — is focused on patient-centered innovation and commercialization. This unique alignment of institutional, state, federal and philanthropic support is working to pioneer the next generation of life-enhancing and life-saving innovation that will make Akron a global model for discovery and enterprise. ABIA is also working to secure Akron’s economic future by accelerating the creation of 2,400 jobs within the next decade.
Now that you’re a rock star, are you going to grow your hair and start wearing leather pants?
Unfortunately, at my age, it would take too long to grow my hair to shoulder length — but I might re-grow my beard and start wearing dark glasses to keep the paparazzi away.
What work did you do specifically that earned you the Rock Star of Science designation?
I was nominated by the leaders of the R.A.R.E Project in recognition of the innovative and important research and development I led in the pharmaceutical industry. The innovations have resulted in more than 20 drugs that treat diseases, such as various cancers and diabetes. The R.A.R.E. Project exists to connect the rare disease community and aid in the development of effective therapies and treatments for children within their lifetime.
At the photo shoot in L.A., who were you most excited to meet?
It’s always exciting to meet other scientists — some of whom, like Dr. Phil Sharpe from MIT — I know. I was also really impressed with Jay Sean, who studied medicine for two years, and was articulate and clearly artistic.
Was it tough to venture out of your comfort zone and into the spotlight as a Rock Star of Science?
It was a little uncomfortable. I’ve never thought of myself as a rock star. But the photo shoot in L.A. was a very positive event. We could feel the pride and commitment of the representatives from GQ magazine and the Geoffrey Beene Foundation as they brought the scientists and rock stars together.
Is there a shortage of kids going into the sciences? If so, why do you think that is?
Our culture today seems to favor immediate gratification and feedback. There’s a rush to have external evidence of material success, and we’re forgetting the famous line of President Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. If you do this, then you find joy and fulfillment in science because the application of it contributes to everyone.
What’s your favorite part of being a scientist?
I get to experience the joy of contributing to improving the health of literally millions of people in the world who I don’t even know.
Who’s your favorite mad scientist?
___ Dr. Frankenstein
___ Dr. Jekyll
___ Dr. No (Bond villain)
___ Doc Brown (Back to the Future)
___ Dr. Evil (Austin Powers)
___ Dr. Moreau
___ Lex Luthor (Superman)
___ Professor Frink (The Simpsons)
Who’s your favorite rock star?
What don’t people know about science, but should?
Science affects and is involved in everything we think and do. It presents and unravels puzzles. It can be used for good as well as evil. When it’s used for good, it brings joy and happiness to the scientist and to all who benefit from it. And it’s fun.
What would surprise people about you?
That I’m a closet introvert and like to watch TV detective shows.