Scroll Editorial Associate Jon Victor ’14 interviewed Convocation Speaker Riley Ennis this past fall. Mr. Ennis, the CEO of a biotechnology startup that aims to find a vaccine against cancer, reflected on his experience at Deerfield and his own personal goals.
1. Why did you decide to come speak at Deerfield?
The opportunity was offered by Mr. Warsaw who had heard me speak previously. I was extremely excited for the talk because of what a prestigous school Deerfield is and I have some friends at Dartmouth who attended Deerfield and had very good things to say about the school.
2. How did it feel to speak here?
Inspired. That is the one word I can use to describe speaking at Deerfield. The reception of my talk was very moving for me because it reiterates the idea that words are extremley powerful. My hope is that this inspiration continues and that students go on to pursue projects that make impact- even if that impact is small. After the talk and through dinner I met so many amazing students and learned a lot about what goes on at Deerfield. And even after I returned to Dartmouth I have received many emails from students sharing their ideas with me on how to change the world. It makes me excited to see the energy and passion at Deerfield and I know without a doubt that you all are game-changers and the next leaders of the world.
3. What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
No idea. That depends on a lot of factors, but I know that whatever the job is every hour that I work will benefit someone else.
4. What obstacles do you foresee for getting the vaccine into clinics in the future?
The biggest challenge right now I would say is getting all the resources necessary to finish the preclinical experiments to prove from a data perspective the efficacy and safety of the technology. I of course believe in the technology 110% but the FDA and other governing bodies need to see certain experiments that take a lot of time and money to execute.
5. Is it difficult for you to get your schoolwork done with all the time you’ve had to devote to the vaccine?
It all comes down to a balance. You really need to sit down and look at all the activities in your life and begin to prioritize. If you remove procrastination and a couple of other activities that you may not care about that much you will see you have more time than you think. When I did this I found a bunch of time in my life and was quickly able to finish my work, do well in school, and pursue the vaccine.