For Better


Philosophy of a Lilly Scientist

  • Meet Lilly neurologist and researcher Andy Ahn, M.D., Ph.D. He’s featured in the March issue of Scientific American.

  • For Ahn, a philosophy degree catalyzed an interest in the brain, which ultimately evolved into his passion for neuroscience. A favorite quote from Socrates – “wisdom begins in wonder” – notes that without a sense of wonder, curiosity and imagination, we would not be where we are today.

  • Photo of Ahn with his classmates at the Pembroke College matriculation, 1984.

    As an undergraduate in biochemistry at Columbia University, Ahn also studied philosophy at Cambridge University’s Pembroke College. Both philosophy and biochemistry led him to Harvard University where he received an M.D. and Ph.D. in neurobiology. “From a neurobiologist’s point of view, how the brain doesn’t work is really about how it does work,” he says.

  • Ahn uses a spine model to explain the complex relationship between pain and changes in the body.

    At Lilly, Ahn leads the early phase discovery team for pain and headache. He is still in contact with many of his previous patients. “My research as a scientist is deeply informed by my patients. As their physician, I’m the person they turn to for hope. This gives me an immense sense of purpose.”

  • Ahn was drawn to Lilly because of the company’s reputation for service, quality and relationships with people. He sees his work as a continuation of the service of our founder, Civil War Colonel Eli Lilly. “Today there are nearly 500,000 veterans who live in Indiana, and nationwide 350,000 veterans who live with the consequences of brain injury and persistent headache. We need to be a partner for patients and caregivers.”

  • “We’re at a revolutionary and foundational time for pain treatment,” Ahn says. “Our intention is to build a headache medicine platform to address unmet needs, create broad awareness, and positively shape and lift the standard of care in headache medicine.”

  • Ahn continues to seek answers to some of science’s most challenging questions. “As a neurologist, my motivation and scientific inspiration come from my patients. But the challenge in medicine is getting the questions right. That also applies to scientific research -– you have to ask the right questions to get the right answers.”

    See more of our discovery stories on and LillyPad.