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Tag: polymath

The “Strangest Biotech Company of All” Issues Their Annual Report as a Comic Book

This seems almost made for me: I’m into comics. I do my own corporate style annual and quarterly reports to track how my finances and goals are going. And, I follow the biopharma industry.

So, when I found out that a biotech company issued its latest annual report in the form of a comic book, I knew I had to blog about it!

The art style is interesting and not all that bad (albeit a little too heavy on the inking in my mind — what do they think this is, a Batman comic?), but the bulk of the comic is told from the first person perspective of Martin Auster, head of business development at the company (that’s Doctor Auster to you, pal!). We get an interesting look at Auster’s life, how he was a medical student who didn’t really want to do a residency, and how and why he joins the company:

And, of course, what annual report wouldn’t be complete without some financial charts – and yes, this particular chart was intended to be read with 3D glasses (which were apparently shipped with paper copies of the report):

Interestingly, the company in question – United Therapeutics — is not a tiny company either: its worth roughly $3 billion (as of when this was written) and is also somewhat renowned for its more unusual practices (meetings have occurred in the virtual world Second Life and employees are all called “Unitherians”) as well as its brilliant and eccentric founder, Dr. Martine Rothblatt. Rothblatt is a very accomplished modern-day polymath:

  • She was an early pioneer in communication satellite law
  • She helped launch a number of communication satellite technologies and companies
  • She founded and was CEO of Geostar Corporation, an early GPS satellite company
  • She founded and was CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio
  • She led the International Bar Association’s efforts to draft a Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights
  • She is a pre-eminent proponent for xenotransplantation
  • She is also one of the most vocal advocates of transgenderism and transgender rights, having been born as Martin Rothblatt (Howard Stern even referred to her as the “Martine Luther Queen” of the movement)
  • She is a major proponent of the interesting philosophy that one might achieve technological immortality by digitizing oneself (having created an interesting robot version of her wife, Bina).
  • She started United Therapeutics because her daughter was diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, a fatal condition which, at the time of diagnosis, there was no effective treatment for

You got to have a lot of love and respect for a company that not only seems to have delivered an impressive financial outcome ($600 million in sales a year and $3 billion in market cap is not bad!) and can still maintain what looks like a very fun and unique culture (in no small part, I’m sure, because of their CEO).

(all images from United Therapeutics annual report)



I think I’m overdue for a comic book post.

imageFor years, Marvel comics readers have known of S.H.I.E.L.D, the American super-spy organization formerly run by Nick Fury (pictured on the left, he’s the cool-looking guy with the eye-patch, not the freaky green guy who is probably a minion of HYDRA).

As a big fan of the super-spy concept, the idea of SHIELD always had intuitive appeal to me, which is why I became very excited when I found out that superstar writer Jonathan Hickman was writing a new series called S.H.I.E.L.D which would dive into the history of the SHIELD organization and how it dates back to the time of Ancient Egypt as a secret society of polymaths who sought to protect the world.

imageIn the first issue alone (cover pictured on the right), we have already seen such famous historical (and fictional) polymaths (translation: genius in multiple fields) as:

The idea of history’s greatest geniuses as superheroes in a historical secret society is an idea that this fanboy/nerd can’t help but love (not to mention the thrill from the incorporation of the Asian polymath Zhang Heng in a comic with a predominantly Western audience), and it got me thinking, who else would it be awesome to have on this team of super-luminaries? We already know that Nostradamus and Sir Isaac Newton will play heavily in the rest of the series, but who else? The comics blog the Weekly Crisis took a quick stab at it, but I thought I’d also make my own list :-):

  • Joan of Arc – (shared with the Weekly Crisis) How does a peasant girl who hear voices from God take command of the French army and overthrow the British? Duh, she had to have been a SHIELD agent – perhaps even a telepath or someone with precognition (can see the future)?
  • Benjamin Franklin – (shared with the Weekly Crisis) Scientist. Inventor. Writer. How does SHIELD pass up recruiting a guy with this much chops? And, obviously, you would place this guy in the New World to deal with any emerging threats there!
  • Archimedes – A man so brilliant that the general of the invading Roman armies issued an order to capture him unharmed. History says that he died when an invading Roman soldier ignored his general’s orders. I say it was just a pretense to bring him over to SHIELD.
  • Hypatia – Potentially the first widely regarded female polymaths, Hypatia was the daughter of one of the last scholars associated with the Musaeum at Alexandria, one of the great repositories of ancient knowledge. Would it be so hard to believe, then, that she would have had access to the knowledge of SHIELD?
  • Abbas ibn Firnas – Best known for possibly attempting the first human heavier-than-air flight, ibn Firnas was a brilliant inventor and was even said to have a “room in which spectators witnessed stars, clouds, thunder, and lightning, which were produced by mechanisms located in his basement laboratory” – sounds like a possible headquarters for SHIELD operations, no?
  • Jābir ibn Hayyān – The first experimental alchemist, ibn Hayyan is widely considered the “Father of Chemistry.” So ahead-of-his-time was ibn Hayyan, that it is believed that the word “gibberish” was derived from a Latinized version of “Jabir” to describe the complexity of his writings. ibn Hayyan would’ve brought significant credibility and expertise to an 8th-9th century SHIELD.
  • Shen Kuo – A prolific scientist and inventor ahead of his times, Shen not only devised the magnetic compass and new methods of studying space but was known for documenting UFOs! If that doesn’t spell, SHIELD extraterrestrial expert, I don’t know what does.
  • Thomas Young – While Einstein was a brilliant physicist, Young was a brilliant physicist, linguist, and doctor. What earned him the most fame was his contributions to the deciphering of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics through the Rosetta stone. But, he was also famous for deducing that light had wave-like properties, for understanding the nature of elasticity, for figuring out how human vision works (even concluding that human color vision depends on three different color sensors), and figuring out the nature of surface tension and capillary action. How does SHIELD pass someone like this up?

Of course, I’m not a writer – so who knows if any of these suggestions would actually make great stories (although I obviously think they will). Regardless, I’m very excited to read the coming issues of this series, and would recommend it to anyone else who has a taste for seeing major historical geniuses take on threats to the safety of the human race!

So, which other polymath/geniuses or major historical figures would you want in SHIELD?

(Image credit – Nick Fury) (Image credit – Marvel)

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