Susan Desmond-Hellman, the University of California San Francisco chancellor, highlighted the vital nature of pursuing translational research -- the kind that pursues clinical applications of promising scientific discoveries.
"The bedside is increasingly becoming the bench, and we are learning more from every patient interaction and outcome," she said. "Scientists should be more concerned to finish the race for patients rather than the race to be published."
Blackburn noted that science is now emerging to intercept disease, leading to more effective prevention methods and earlier detection and diagnosis.
Panelists shared the concern that the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies charged with developing life-saving therapies are valued much lower than companies producing consumer products like potato chips, cosmetics and soft drinks.
"And yet, every day we see around us the need to invest in life sciences," said Amgen Corporate Chief Medical Officer Sean Harper. "At Amgen, recent technology advancements allow for the ability to collect biomarkers that screen patients to test their responsiveness to therapeutics -- part of a larger movement toward personalized medicine that is expected to yield the most effective results.
Milken noted that the world's assets are driven by the productivity of individuals, and economic growth greatly depends on medical research that will extend the average lifespan and improve the quality of life.
Hellmann said the pipeline of human capital hinges on education in the sciences. She emphasized that we need to introduce students to the thrill and promise of discovery at a young age. Students should be exposed to global health issues as encouragement to use science to solve the world's problems.
Watson said society needs to better acknowledge the "marvel of genius" and inspire it across generations. Just 25 when he was part of the team that discovered the structure of DNA, he also advocated giving "real power to people under 30."