Now, at Ontogeny, Platika is a major player in biotech, running a company that is undergoing its own phase of embryonic growth. When Platika joined the company in June 1996, it had 18 employees; now there are 60 and the number should reach 75 by this spring. "We're ramping up and may eventually be over 100 by the end of 1998," he says. Naturally, such rapid growth means differentiation; hence, Platika has been unable to do hands-on lab research for a year and a half, and he misses it. "I live vicariously through others," he says. He also misses clinical work and plans to begin seeing neurological patients at MGH, half a day per week on a pro bono basis. "Taking care of people gives you immediate reinforcement--they leave better than they came," he says. "I'm getting as much out of it as they are."

Indeed, despite the intellectual excitement and the heady business potential of his work at Ontogeny, Platika's strongest motivation is the chance to help people reverse degenerative ailments for which no effective treatment now exists. Human relationships, such as those with his wife, Patricia Curran, and their sons, Christopher and Alex--as well as those with patients and colleagues--give Platika his deepest satisfactions. "I am not interested in knowledge for knowledge's sake," he says. "For me, the question is always, how can this make a difference for people, for human beings?"


Craig Lambert is an associate editor at Harvard Magazine.


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