Everyone needs science, and science needs everyone

Devastating hurricanes and tropical storms wreak havoc on oceanside communities. Megadroughts leave large swaths of the globe parched. Megafloods sweep away neighborhoods and whole towns. Viral pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 make the jump from animals to humans, generating suffering and in many cases death as they propagate and mutate. 

Science holds the key to understanding, confronting, and overcoming these and other threats arising from humanity’s interaction with our natural environment. The advancement of science, in turn, depends on fostering the next generation of scientific innovators.

This is a top priority for Amgen and for me personally as chair of the Amgen Foundation, which for more than three decades has worked to cultivate in young people everywhere a passion for the life sciences through high-quality and accessible biology education.

The Amgen Foundation is driven by the belief that everyone needs science, and science needs everyone. Working with trusted partner organizations, we seek to inspire the next generation of scientific innovators, expand access to quality science education for students with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, and provide best-in-class science education resources at no cost to teachers and students — particularly low-income and disadvantaged learners.

Since 1991, the Amgen Foundation has committed more than $200 million to advancing science education programming globally, reaching tens of millions of students and teachers. Last year alone, over 27 million students and educators worldwide were impacted through the four core science education programs we support: 

  • Khan Academy’s online biology resources, which are free to everyone and reached 15 million students and teachers worldwide last year;
  • The Amgen Biotech Experience, which provides teaching materials, research-grade lab equipment, and professional development to high school science teachers worldwide;
  • Amgen Scholars, an annual summer program that connects hundreds of undergraduate students with research opportunities at world-class science and biotechnology institutions across the globe; and
  • LabXchange, a free online science education platform developed by Harvard University and the Amgen Foundation that gives students access to personalized biology instruction and virtual lab experience.

These programs have proven especially valuable during the past three years, as the pandemic has disrupted traditional learning, particularly for low-income students. LabXchange, for instance, launched in early 2020 just as COVID-19 was forcing schools to move to virtual learning. It has been used, to date, by more than 16 million students, teachers, and lifelong learners of all ages, all over the world.

“LabXchange helped me to sharpen my skills at a time when access to my physical lab at school was cut short due to constant COVID-19 lockdowns,” says Rutendo Kahari, a student and aspiring researcher from Zimbabwe. 

Just last year, LabXchange launched a groundbreaking project — supported by a $1.2 million grant from the Amgen Foundation — to tackle the structures that have perpetuated racial inequity in healthcare and science education in the United States. Under this initiative, graduate fellows from Historically Black Colleges and Universities are preparing new digital learning resources for use by high school and college educators to build public awareness of racial health disparities, teach critical thinking skills needed to dismantle structures that perpetuate inequities, and provide evidence-based practices to support Black students’ sense of belonging, identity, and success in science.

Only by building a diverse bench of scientific talent we will be able to tackle today’s global challenges — and the inevitable future ones — from climate change to pandemic disease.