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Why life sciences is a flourishing, purpose-led industry

By Sandra Owens, CEO, ScienceToLife & AccessOncology

The life sciences/pharmaceutical medicines industry is an exciting and challenging sector to work within. After all, scientific advancements and new breakthroughs happen every single day. Every job within the industry requires a high level of motivation and competence. It’s a growing and demanding sector in which hard work is well rewarded. It’s also one which is always searching for new talent.

Being a patient-centric and research-driven industry, approximately $150 billion is spent by pharmaceutical companies in total every year on research and development projects.

Out of thousands of compounds, only a small percentage gain regulatory approval to be used by patients to treat disease and improve quality of life. There is a staggering number of molecules currently under investigation in the US alone:

  • Cancer: 1,100
  • Cardiovascular disease: 200
  • Neurology: 537
  • Infectious diseases: 400
  • Mental illness: 138

In 2018, a record number of novel drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies across the globe were approved by various regulatory bodies. Last year, a large proportion were approved by the US regulatory body, the FDA – 48 novel drugs – and represent significant improvement over standard therapies. The availability of new drugs to treat disease positively impacts the lives of millions of people around the globe and working in the industry allows you to be a key part of that process.

Life sciences professionals feel a strong sense of purpose

There can be nothing more depressing than waking up every day to do a job that is just a pay packet; with no passion or purpose for the value you bring to work every day, and a feeling that you are not contributing to the greater good.

The sense of purpose people working in the life sciences industry feel is clear – we bring patients innovative new therapies that help them to live longer, healthier lives. Undoubtedly, some of these people are our parents, brothers, sisters, partners. And us. That is our reason for existing and is the reason that millions of people come to work each day, across the globe, with this purpose – for the benefit of patients. 

Over the course of the past 50 years, life sciences have tackled some of the leading causes of disease and life-threatening illnesses. In the last 15 years, there has been a steady decline in the death rate from the major diseases affecting the community:

  • Heart disease (ischaemic heart disease)
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
  • Most major cancers for both males and females

Both genders have seen death rates reducing by around 50 per cent for stroke and heart disease.

The decline can be attributed to medicines researched and made available by the industry, as well as lifestyle shifts and a push to earlier diagnosis. In fact, industry innovation has accounted for 73 per cent of the total increase in life expectancy between 2000 and 2009 across 30 developing and high-income countries.

  • Improvements in cancer survival over the last decade created an estimated 23 million additional life-years over this period
  • According to the World Health Organization, immunisations save an estimated two to three million lives every year
  • For every $1 the US spends on childhood vaccinations, we save $10.20 in disease treatment costs

However, there is more work for us to do, especially in marginalised communities. There are still devastating diseases that we need to conquer, for example:

  •  COVID-19
  •  Alzheimer’s
  •  Dementia
  •  Huntington’s
  •  Parkinson’s
  •  Diabetes
  •  Cancer

How has the life sciences industry responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?

In one word, the response has been extraordinary.

The incredible actions taken are a clear signal of how quickly life sciences can move when a global crisis emerges. There are currently over 100 vaccines in development! Many are already in or about to start Phase 3 trials involving over 300,000 participants with conclusive efficacy read outs expected in October 2020.

Over the course of the pandemic so far, the life sciences industry has clearly showcased its capacity for entrepreneurialism and adaptability. Here are a few examples:

  • Many large organisations are combining expertise to resolve the crisis, fast-track vaccine, treatment development/delivery and ensure availability for all who require them
  • Unprecedented levels of partnership are seen between government, industry, biotech and academia – the US expect to have a COVID-19 vaccine available in November 2020, for high risk groups
  • The industry is working with regulators and the clinical community to fast-track clinical trials is evident – we are witnessing never seen before agility
  • Anti-viral drugs are being repurposed since the genetic sequence of COVID-19 was first shared
  • The widespread sharing of resource amongst the industry to gear up manufacturing capacity for global availability of the vaccine is unprecedented.

Watch five of the top leaders in the industry discuss their collaborative efforts to bring a vaccine to market as quickly as possible.

So, if you’re interested in building your career in the purpose-led life sciences industry, the following blogs will help you understand how to break into it, whilst giving you a wider understanding of the roles available:

About this author

Sandra has worked in Senior Executive roles for Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Merck and Johnson & Johnson across the Asia Pacific Region, developing immunotherapies, biologics & targeted agents to early and successful in-market launch in the Asia Pacific Region.

She has a reputation as an effective and innovative leader with proven ability to build high performing teams and deliver strong P&L performance by developing collaborative partnerships between medical, patients, market access and commercial groups.

Sandra is also a mentor and educator, with a passion for inspiring people to reach beyond what they ever thought possible and then helping them get there.

“Life Sciences is an exciting and dynamic industry. The opportunity to educate people and encourage more talent to join us and create more life for patients, is my purpose.” www.ScienceToLife.com.au

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