Innovation key to future prosperity and health, Lilly chief says

LOS ANGELES Sustaining the country’s edge in innovation and improving focus on people in medical innovations will be key to achieving prosperity and health in the coming decade, the leader of one of the country’s largest drug makers said Thursday at a luncheon in Los Angeles.

Serving as the keynote speaker at a Town Hall luncheon, Eli Lilly & Co. chairman and CEO John Lechleiter said it was necessary to pursue policies fostering innovation such as broad improvement of science and math education in grade schools and high schools, sustained funding for basic research and immigration policies that encourage scientists to work in the United States.

“We tend to think of innovation in terms of technology, science and labs, but innovation is essentially the application of human ingenuity to improve human life,” Lechleiter said. “To fully appreciate innovation, we have to see and understand clearly its benefits for humankind.”

The United States lately has fallen short in the area of science and math education, Lechleiter said, noting that American 15-year-olds rank poorly against their counterparts in other developed countries, while the average scores for 12th graders in the sciences have declined, and the number of college students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math is insufficient to meet future demands.