Les choses de la vie

Field work is always an opportunity to learn new Chinese characters and to put them together in different contexts. Of course, in the field of medicine and public health, the terms we use are sometimes a bit specific. However, there is always a link to something already known. The harvest for this week's mission includes 实验室, that is ShiYanShi, "the room to experience reality" (The laboratory) and 留样室, that is LuiYangShi, "the room to rest the types" (The store room to keep the samples of each lot). But by far, my favourite was the term "Biological" (meaning biological product) that is 生物, the "things of life".

In terms of healthcare product industry, "biologicals" are a bit of a spooky thing. Medical devices for instance are pretty easy to have under control. It's not rocket science to make a safe syringe, because the plastic is molded hot in the first place, so it's already almost sterile. Medicines (drugs) require a higher level of care and attention to be safe. But it's only about chemistry. But biologicals, like blood products or vaccines represent a different level of technology. Why? Because in the case of biologicals, we deal with life. To make a blood product, like albumin, you have to recover plama from human donors. To make clotting factors, you have to recode bacteria and ask them to produce the protein you want. To make vaccines, in most cases, you have to first produce the pathogen so that you get the particles of antigens. And pathogens, like virus and bacterias, are alive, hence less predictable than chemicals. In some cases, like for influenza, the viruses used to make vaccines are grown on chicken eggs, another form of life. Hence, it took lot of technology and quality systems to make safe health care products out of these "things of life".
Because "things of life" have, like life, a tendency for being unpredictable, hence a bit scary.

"The things of life", or in French, "Les choses de la vie" are also a French movie by Claude Sautet that was released in 1970. One of these very French movie of a generation that did not have to worry about AIDS and unemployment,
but that did not enjoy the fun of globalization or the Internet. In the movie, Michel Piccoli is having a severe car accident on a road. During the course of the event, he sees his entire life in front of his eyes as a flash back. All these things of life that become apparent when you get close to death, since death is close to life. In the same way that the sea is close to the shore. Close but different, different but intricate.