From the Editor: May 2024

Cheryl Scott

May 10, 2024

2 Min Read

I’ve been thinking a lot about disruption lately. The modern business-jargon use for the word bothered me the first time I saw it. The term seems to lose most of its negative connotations as users try to express their ideas about radical change but “for the better.” Look up disrupt in a thesaurus, however, and you’ll find that its synonyms are all unfortunate in nature.

Coming from the Latin dis- (“apart”) and rumpere (“to break”), disrupt literally means “to break apart.” It first was used medically to refer to tissue-laceration injuries, then gained more general traction in the 1600s. The Online Etymology Dictionary has a fun graph showing the use of disruption from books going back to 1800. Its frequency remained below two in a million words until about 1940, then leapt to seven in a million between 1960 and 1980. Contrary to my sense of it in recent years, the word’s use has remained relatively steady since then.

I think that what’s bothered me has been the gleeful marketing materials touting the “disruptive” nature of a company’s technology. Nobody merely “changes the paradigm” anymore, as nauseating as that already had become 20 years ago; now companies are disrupting it! I’m not pedantic by any means, but I feel that glee is probably not the emotion that should be associated with the breaking of things.

Particularly when what might be broken affects people’s livelihoods, that almost amounts to schadenfreude. My own life has been somewhat disrupted of late — in the true sense of the word — and I’m getting no enjoyment out of it. Disruption, turmoil, disorder, those are all things we must weather in life. And yes, sometimes the new normal that comes from them is a better one, at least for those people who survive the upheaval. But revolutions (of the political sort, especially) come with a hefty price to pay, not only for those who deserve to pay it.

Inevitably in BPI, we return to medicine. COVID-19 very likely was the biggest true disruption in our lifetimes. The after-effects continue to ripple across our business, social, and political worlds and are likely to continue. Many of those effects have been surprising. And this summer, we’re hoping to parse out some of them in our “Platform” issue, giving you a place to share insights on the “new normal” in the biopharmaceutical world. Where has the past few years’ disruption left you and your company?

Look for your invitation to take our industry survey soon — or go right now to and give us your thoughts! Better yet, drop me a line at [email protected] and join our contributors in expounding on your favorite pet peeves (like mine here), exciting developments, visions of the future, and cautionary tales. It’s your chance to speak out.


You May Also Like