Without mechanistic understanding, the capability of technology is inherently limited. Alzheimers is a great example really of applied medical science racing ahead of the basic science, only to find that the animal model was misleading.
The quote in the original article is also troubling “we were seeing scientists build their career around one gene or one protein” Did it never occur to her that the very reason that could happen is that some of these genes or proteins are enormously complex or have interactions with signaling networks that are unpredictable? Even now, decades after we first discovered some of the growth factor receptors that drive cancer, we are finding out that model of an orderly signaling cascade has to be redrawn to take into account the timing of their activation.
That would have been impossible without curiosity driven science. The cost of not doing the basic research and blundering into dead ends may well exceed the cost of doing the fundamental science.