Christina Hsing, Ellen Tan
Pride month is here! The time is full of festivals and celebrations.
Pride in Biotechnology
Over the past decades, the forerunners of the LGBTQ2+ community fought for their rights in spite of facing discrimination and obstacles of all aspects. They achieved significant milestones for the LGBTQ2+ history around the world, making equality a reality. They are creators and leaders of the worldwide rights movement, the rainbow flag, anti-discrimination law, and legalization of same-sex marriage.
Despite their accomplishments, the LGBTQ2+ community continues to seek the rights and recognition that the people deserve. There are still an abundance of changes that need to be implemented to make the world better. In biotechnology specifically, transgender and queer individuals are still struggling to gain access to healthcare and other social services as the industries are lacking the proper training and knowledge needed for these individuals.
"We should indeed keep calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity." — George Takei
To echo the theme of the June BioTEC Bulletin, the Original Content team is presenting one of the leaders of LGBTQ2+, Martine Rothblatt.
Who is Martine?
Martine (previously known as Martin) was born in Chicago in 1954, with a passion about satellite communications and space technology. Later in the 1990s, she created SiriusXM Satellite Radio, an American broadcasting company with over 34.9M subscribers. Martine is also one of the most influential representatives of the LGBTQ2+ community. She came out as a transgender in 1994 and has become an advocate of transgender rights since then. To this day, Martine continues to break transgender stereotypes through her representation of the LGBTQ2+ community in her industry.
"My thesis in this book [The Apartheid of Sex] is that there are seven billion people in the world, and actually, seven billion unique ways to express one's gender." — Martine Rothblatt
Superwoman to the Rescue, Fight Against PAH
Martine's youngest child, Jenesis, was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), an incurable illness at the time. It is a rare and fatal disease where the arteries of the lungs cause high blood pressure. Her doctor recommended the option of a lung transplant, but the supply of children's lungs was limited. Due to the high fatality rate, hope was little, yet this did not stop Martine and her wife, Bina. In order to find other ways to save their daughter, Martine became an expert on the disease, and the couple launched the PPH Cure Foundation for PAH medical research and drug development.
But this was still not enough.
An unexpected twist happened when a potential medicine, Glaxo Wellcome, was mentioned by a doctor. After persistent efforts in persuading and communicating, Martine obtained the license and rights of the drug. Eventually, she and her team were able to develop a medicine called Remodulin that can treat PAH.
Martine also founded United Therapeutics in 1996, which has developed medicines that treat PAH and pediatric neuroblastoma. Currently, the organization is focusing on creating an unlimited supply of transplantable organs by genetically modifying pig genomes so that pig organs can be used for human transplants. With its development of technologies for lung disease treatment and organ manufacturing, United Therapeutics is committed to saving millions of patients like Jenesis.
Let's All be Superheroes
Martine's work has inspired many people and brought her multiple awards and medals throughout the years. From her challenges and adversities, her story has taught people that being brave and staying true to themselves is what it takes to make a change in the world. Let’s embrace diversity and form unity to create a better world.
"This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another." — Elliot Page
Herper, Matthew. “From Satellites To Pharmaceuticals.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 16 July 2012, www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0510/second-acts-pharmaceuticals-orphan-drugs-pah-deep-breaths.html?sh=740f9c56597a.
“Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.” NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders), 2 Mar. 2021, rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/pulmonary-arterial-hypertension/#:~:text=Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is,the heart through the lungs.
Rothblatt, Martine. “My Daughter, My Wife, Our Robot, and the Quest for Immortality.” TED, www.ted.com/talks/martine_rothblatt_my_daughter_my_wife_our_robot_and_the_quest_for_immortality#t-371696.
Carrillo, Justine and Houston, Julie Marie, "Exploring Cultural and Linguistic Aspects within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth Community" (2015). Electronic Theses, Projects, and Dissertations. 170. https://scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/etd/170