The Pandemic Diaries
We ask medicine makers around the world to tell us how their professional and personal lives have changed over the course of the COVID-19 crisis. Featuring Simon Tyler at CatSci, Nick Shackley at Johnson Matthey, Chris Lowe at Horizon Discovery, and Andrew Bulpin at Merck.
Simon Tyler, Chief Operating Officer at CatSci
The pharma industry is very hands-on, so many people have been unable to work from home and must continue to go into the lab or manufacturing facility to carry out vital scientific research and development activities. Very early on, the industry had to get to grips with the types of issues now starting to be more widely considered across other industries as lockdown restrictions begin to ease in various countries. How do you maintain the same standards of operation within a laboratory environment in a safe manner? I’ve been humbled to observe, amongst the obvious heroism of front-line workers, the motivation of dedicated scientists who are continuing to undertake pharmaceutical R&D in the knowledge that it will one day contribute to the better treatment of, or help to defeat, the world’s evolving healthcare challenges. Scientists have also had to work against a backdrop of huge uncertainty shaped largely by two factors: government action (would there be mandated closure of laboratories?) and customer decisions (will they proceed with projects or postpone?).
With regards to the former, scientific advice has (fortunately) been at the forefront of this decision-making process and many labs, including ourselves, have been able to carry on with important projects focusing on the development of small molecule therapeutics, provided, of course, that appropriate health and safety measures are implemented. With respect to the latter, we have found that there is a clear distinction in the market between two schools of thought: those companies that wish to continue as near as possible, undeterred, and those that have applied the brakes to see what happens (fortuitously, our customers have been predominantly in the first category). There is no right or wrong approach, and all pharma companies must figure out what is the best course for their individual business. However, these are all real issues that both sponsors and service providers are facing with regards to progressing pharmaceutical projects in the current environment.
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