Larry Kennedy subscribes to the random walk theory of scientific discovery.
There is something special to Kennedy about walking down the hallways at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and talking science with a colleague. That's been part of his job for the past 16 years as OMRF's vice president for technology transfer.
Kennedy catches up on the latest discoveries from chance meetings in the halls, sits in on scientific seminars and crashes departmental meetings — all with a purpose.
The walks, the seminars and the meetings keep him in touch with the foundation's emerging research, helping him identify discoveries with the best potential to do the greatest good for people with life-threatening or crippling illnesses.
“If you love science and you can walk-in and participate in discussions on the cutting edge of science, how much better can it get?” he said. “The scientists here are phenomenal. There are some brilliant people here.”
OMRF is an Oklahoma City-based private, nonprofit biomedical research institute founded 68 years ago. The foundation conducts research into the areas of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lupus and children's diseases.
Kennedy, 71, will say goodbye to his scientific colleagues and their hallway conversations on Valentine's Day when he retires from his position at OMRF. He plans to spend his retirement years in Aspen, Colo.
Trained as a microbiologist, Kennedy's career began as a researcher, but evolved into business development roles for the pharmaceutical industry.
Kennedy's departure from OMRF will be his third retirement, he says with a laugh. He “retired” twice from pharmaceutical companies before his tenure began at the foundation.
OMRF was supposed to be a temporary layover on the road to permanent retirement.
Because of Oklahoma City's proximity to his hometown of Wichita, Kan., Kennedy could commute to Kansas on weekends to care for his elderly parents and those of his wife.
The “layover” at OMRF continued long after their deaths. It lasted long enough that Kennedy was able to shepherd a potentially groundbreaking discovery with special importance to him into human clinical trials.