Thomas Petzinger Jr. Presents the Gordon Heffern Business Lecture at Mount Union College

April 06, 2010

'If business equals life, then what does life teach us about business?' asked Thomas Petzinger Jr., co-founder and chief executive officer of LaunchCyte LLC, a Pittsburgh-based biotechnology development company, when he presented The Gordon Heffern Business Ethics Lecture Wednesday at Mount Union College.

During Petzinger's lecture entitled 'The Entrepreneurial Ethic: Why Doing Right Means Doing Well,' Petzinger addressed how specific elements of biological progress relate to business and the economy. The seven elements are efficiency, reciprocity, competition, variety, innovation, learning and self-organization.

'These are inherently ethical activities and are also entrepreneur activities,' Petzinger said. 'When doing well in business, you are doing an ethical act.'

Petzinger showed both biblical and biological evidence to prove each element is related to business and ethics. Innovation, for example, is clearly seen in nature.

'E. coli is innovative,' Petzinger said. 'Like business organizations, it conducts trial and error in its environment and is effective at reproducing, growing and organizing behavior.'

In addition to innovation, Petzinger stressed the biological elements of competition and variety.

'Without competition, we would not have the product quality we have today,' Petzinger said.

Petzinger also said variety goes hand in hand with diversity.

'Diverse perspectives are really good business,' Petzinger said. 'Diverse styles are much more effective at solving problems.'

Petzinger demonstrated how some specific business jargon is rooted from biological terms. For example, organization is closely linked to organism, corporation is related to corporeal and economy steams from ecology.

Therefore Petzinger concluded 'business equals life.'

'If life is sacred and ethical,' Petzinger said, 'Then business is sacred and ethical.'

Petzinger faces ethical issues on a daily basis as an executive vice president of Knopp Neurosciences Inc., a biotechnology company with a mission to accelerate the diagnosis and improve the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often called Lou Gehrig's disease. Ethics matters he confronts include investing in an underserved market, preclinical animal testing and use of placebo controls.

'Ethics may come up every hour in business,' Petzinger said.

Petzinger said when he has to make important ethical decisions, he trusts his intuition.

'Not all the time is the answer completely obvious,' Petzinger said. 'But in the end, the best decision is your gut instinct.'

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