The Greater London Association event on February 7th 2019 at King’s College, London was very well attended. The session began with a glass of wine and light refreshments provided by Cecile Dreiss, School Lead (Development, Diversity & Inclusion) on behalf of Kings College, followed by an introduction from the Chair, Patrice Wellesley-Cole, BFWG President. The two speakers were Dr Elizabeth Poskitt O.B.E, who outlined the history of BFWG since 1907 and, also, explained the possibility, for 3rd Year PhD (or equivalent Part-Time) students, of competing for BFWG and FfWG Awards. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Kathy Abbott Banner on “What it is like to work in Drug Discovery and Development within the Pharmaceutical Industry”.
Students expressed an interest in being made aware of the history of the federation. The presentation, kindly given by Elizabeth, offered clear, detailed and interesting slides about the development of BFWG, thereby providing a meaningful context to the hard work and commitment of our forbears who enabled substantial grants to be awarded. The purpose was to encourage such students to apply for Awards to assist them in their studies.
The second talk, given by Kathy, was based on 20 years of wide and varied experience working in the Pharmaceutical Industry that employs around 73,000 people in the UK. Kathy identified what is involved at each stage of the drug discovery process ie: Pre-clinical, Clinical Development and also types of generic activities. It became clear that before a product is ready to market, the development of a successful new drug is a lengthy process with high attrition. It is a constantly changing environment where drugs can be frequently abandoned for a range of different reasons, including lack of efficacy, toxicological findings or safety concerns. The impact of this kind of work environment is that pharmaceutical companies may choose to close down specific research areas or change direction. When considering employment in the Pharmaceutical Industry it is, therefore, advisable to have an attitude of resilience and be prepared to work on different drug targets which may span a variety of diseases. In addition, mergers, acquisitions and business decisions to close sites do occur, so you should be prepared to relocate or move to different companies, possibly in other countries. Kathy likened a job in Pharmaceuticals to being on a rollercoaster.
At the conclusion of the presentations, students formed a queue to ask questions. Students found it very useful to get an insight into exactly what a job in the Pharmaceutical Industry entails, the breadth of opportunities available, together with what type of attributes are valued. Some were anxious that they would be judged as not good enough if they embarked on a career in the Pharmaceutical Industry so clearly some reassurance and education in this regard would be desirable. This initiative appeared to be very appropriate to the needs of students and would seem to be a path worth pursuing if BFWG is to positively impact on the professional lives of university students.
Before leaving, students were given publicity materials to take with them. Our President wrote to thank Cecile Dreiss and expressed the hope that BFWG would be able to cooperate further with Kings College.