Bio-Rad wanted me to visit their customer UC Davis post doc Ryan Jensen (pictured above), who was beta testing the company’s Mini-PROTEAN TGX precast gels. At lunch, Ryan told us the incredible story about how he purified full-length BRCA2, the tumor suppressor that can lead to hereditary breast cancer if it’s mutated just so.

Some facts:

BRCA1, the other breast cancer protein, had been previously purified. But not BRCA2.

Reasons to blame: weighs in at a whopping 470 kDa (with a couple of expression tags tacked on); fragile as glass; and only limited quantities can be produced

Ryan was racing to isolate the protein against many of the world’s finest cancer labs

Once purified, all sorts of biochemical studies, including some that Ryan performed, can help explain how it works, and how mutational genetic defects lead to cancer. Understanding these details can one day lead to developing effective drugs to treat those with BRCA2 cancer.

All of these life-altering implications aside, it was great to have a salmon BLT at the local coffee shop and get to know Ryan as a person. There was great sacrifice on Ryan’s part, as he spent many hours away from his wife and two kids. Despite the time away, he had a positive attitude—one I found to be contagious.

I’m grateful to Bio-Rad for introducing me to Ryan and for the chance to hear his story.

Every marketing person should have an opportunity to do the same. It will help remind us why we do this for a living.