Today’s Curiosity is Tomorrow’s Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research


I am very excited to finally have my most recent book, “Today’s Curiosity is Tomorrow’s Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research” in press and now available for preorder. 

For a very long time I have been concerned that there is decreasing appreciation (and hence investment) for very basic, curiosity-driven research, with many political leaders and the public (and even scientists themselves) pushing to redirect funding toward “translational” and “disease-related” research. Not that there is anything wrong with advancing science to treat and cure diseases; ultimately this is the goal of all biomedical research. However, as the history of science and biomedicine has proven again and again, the biggest advances in medicine frequently come from basic, curiosity-driven research. The medical advances already coming from CRISPR-based gene-editing are an obvious example, but if we stray back only 50-60 years  to the era when Marshall Nirenberg brilliantly elucidated the genetic code, finding the molecular relationship between DNA, mRNA and the amino acids that comprise every protein, we realize very quickly that today’s mRNA vaccines for Sars2/Covid-19 would not be remotely possible without the knowledge accrued from these basic findings.

I have been thinking of this project for a long, long time, and I must say it’s been a challenging project. For one, my goalposts have been constantly moving–it began as an attempt to inform politicians, lobbyists, and members of the public why basic science is so important. But I soon realized that without delving into concrete details–actual historical examples of how basic science brings about cures–the book would not have the same weight. And thus Today’s Curiosity is Tomorrow’s Cure evolved into a true hybrid: a history book of biomedical research over the last 150 years, aimed at undergraduate students and informed laypersons, but also a guide for graduate students and all types of scientists, who so frequently are unaware of the history of science (yes, I know–time constraints–scientists have enough to keep up with in the present…)

Through an enormous amount of research and reading (throughout which I have, unfortunately, found little time for blogging these past 18 months), I hope that I have succeeded in compiling an exciting, fascinating and informative stroll through key biomedical research findings, from the discovery of DNA and on to CRISPR-based gene-editing, with many additional topics from the discovery of antibodies and angiogenesis, to the discovery of various subcellular organelles and pathways, and much more. Just as importantly, I also hope that I have established a pattern, where a key basic research discovery lends itself 20, 30 or even 100 years later to major advances in treating diseases. For if we do not make important new discoveries today, in 20-30 years there will be no “translational” and “disease-related” research.

From a personal standpoint, I have learned so much from this enterprise, and am certain that this endeavor has made me become a better scientist–I only wish I had taken the time to write this book 20 years earlier.


About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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