Five Questions For … Tom Luby, Head of JLabs @ TMC in Houston

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lab, and being a researcher. I guess it was the realization that it would be kind of like the same thing over and over again every year. It became a little bit disheartening for me. When the opportunity came for me to do a semester-long internship in a lab, I jumped at it, and fell in love with the whole idea of science at the bench.

X: What’s your blind spot?

TL: I guess you can call it a blind spot. These are vices that you have that you don’t recognize as such. Growing up in the Northeast of the U.S. and now moving to Houston and recognizing through the course of my career—in the industries in which we all work—that [the workplace] continues to become more diverse—and [I] benefit from that perspective and ideas. As a kid growing up in the U.S., I speak English, but then when I sit with my colleagues or neighbors that have a diversity of experiences and they mention offhand that they speak three languages and worked in four different cultures, I recognize that my U.S.-centric point-of-view could be a bit of a bias that would not allow me to see all opportunities in the way that they might best be seen.

I also grew up in a house where, essentially, my parents had parallel careers. Most independent pharmacies went away when insurance carriers changed the way they charged in the late ’70s/early ’80s. They went to work for a large not-to-be-named pharmacy chain, and even though she had equivalent experience and, arguably, mom had better interpersonal skills, dad was always promoted first and also made more money. It pissed my mom off, and she always mentioned it in the house. So, I have an appreciation for gender bias, having seen it firsthand.

That is something to worry about, and I try to watch out for.

X: How do you relax outside of work when you want to tune out the noise?

TL: Two ways. [The first is] spending time with my family. Everybody just made it here to Texas. I had been commuting to Boston, but [as of] June, my wife and four kids are all under the same roof with me. Second is playing all the rounds of golf as often as I can. [It’s] even better when I can do both—we all play together. All my children play golf. Some are more enthusiastic about going out and playing with dad than others.

X: If you could change just one regulation that affects your industry, what would it be?

TL: One thing I would say from a regulation perspective—I’ll stay away from the FDA and talk a little about corporate tax. It’s unusually high and, in many cases, what that does is eat money that could be reinvested in R&D. We need to find ways to allow for that money to come back to the U.S. Here, in the U.S., is arguably where many of the innovative ideas in healthcare come from. This has a large impact [on] our ability to be innovative, and especially for larger companies to partner with smaller companies, such as in the startup ecosystem.

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