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"Science and education are two of the most noble careers anyone could go into," said George Yancopoulos, the Chief Scientific Officer at Regeneron, which sponsors the Science Talent Search.
George spoke to the 2017 Regeneron STS finalists Friday night about how he entered science, his heroes, and how he turned Regeneron into such a great place for scientists to work.
You are our soldiers; your brains are your weapons. We need you to save our world.
In high school, George's heroes were baseball players and his dream was to play football at Notre Dame University. Things changed when he got into the Bronx High School of Science.
There, students' heroes were Westinghouse STS winners (the Science Talent Search was sponsored by Westinghouse from 1942-1998, when it was then sponsored by Intel until 2016). "The legend was that these were the kids who would go on to do amazing things, make inventions, win Nobel Prizes," George said.
George came up with the roots of Regeneron through his Westinghouse STS project. Participating in science fair remains one of his proudest achievements, and was where he started to feel that maybe science could be for him. "I come from an immigrant background," George said," and I began to think maybe I can make a difference in the world."
"I come from an immigrant background. I began to think maybe I can make a difference in the world.
Over the past five years, Regeneron has invented 10 percent of the new drugs. In its first 20 years, the company didn't produce any — but George said he and his team were failing, and learning, a lot. In the company's first 20 years, genetics was still a very unknown field.
"People said we were proving why scientists shouldn't run a company," but now Regeneron has built a machine that can go genes to drugs.
These [Westinghouse STS] were the kids who would go on to do amazing things.
George encouraged the finalists to commit to making a difference in the world through STEM. "We're facing a sort of doomsday," he said, "we're fighting for our very survival."
"You are our soldiers; your brains are your weapons," George told the finalists. "We need you to save our world."
The Regeneron Science Talent Search is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.