Two Key Steps in Elevating Biopharmaceutical Science

Two Key Steps in Elevating Biopharmaceutical Science

06.14.13 | By John Castellani

Science has been on my mind lately – and for two very good reasons.

As you might have heard, Dr. Bill Chin, Executive Dean for Research at Harvard Medical School, will be joining PhRMA to lead our Scientific and Regulatory Affairs department, starting July 1.  We are thrilled to be welcoming Dr. Chin to the team, as he brings a tremendous amount of experience in drug discovery, clinical research, regulatory sciences and academic-industry collaborations.

And, just last week, PhRMA hosted the inaugural meeting of our new Scientific Leadership Advisory Council (SLAC).  

Chaired by Dr. Elias Zerhouni, MD, president of global R&D at Sanofi and former director of the National Institutes of Health, the SLAC is comprised of heads of R&D, chief medical officers and chief scientific officers from our member companies. In other words, these are the men and women who are directly responsible for leading our companies’ efforts to deliver new, cutting-edge solutions to patients to prevent, treat and cure disease. They are setting the vision and research agenda for biopharmaceutical science in the U.S. and globally.

The primary motivation behind the creation of the SLAC is to help promote a sustainable scientific ecosystem able to drive and reward biopharmaceutical innovation and improve recognition of our sector as a leader of biomedical science. The council is specifically charged with providing strategic directions to PhRMA to address key scientific and public health issues, as well as help deepen scientific engagement with partners in the medical innovation ecosystem, including the academic community, patient advocates, policy makers and the public.

In the words of PhRMA Board Chairman Bob Hugin: “We stand on the threshold of an extraordinary era during which great advances in scientific knowledge will be translated into solutions for patients’ unmet medical needs. Our scientific voices, through the SLAC, can help make clear to policymakers the impact that the decisions they make will have on whether the ecosystem of innovation is able to deliver on the great promise of the biopharmaceutical discovery and development pipeline.”

Last week’s kick-off meeting was a refreshingly candid, thoughtful and productive dialogue, which portends well for the group’s effectiveness and sustainability going forward. For example, in discussing the challenges facing clinical trials, council members explored the need to move from a culture of “patients as subjects” to one of “patients as partners” in trials, identifying "transformation of the clinical trial ecosystem” as a priority for the SLAC.

Similarly, the importance of shifting public views from “industry as a cause” to “industry as a solution” to our healthcare challenges, and moving the dialogue on metrics of public health impact from “commercial value” to “medical value,” were seen as important goals for the council.

While this initial meeting of the group was a closed session, we look forward to future opportunities for more open engagement with the SLAC.

Our sector’s ability to successfully advocate for positive U.S. policies that support medical innovation requires a better-rooted appreciation for our science among policymakers and other partners in the biopharmaceutical ecosystem.  For this reason, it is incumbent upon us to do a better job driving science-based policy and regulatory decisions. The Scientific Leadership Advisory Council will be instrumental in setting a course for us to meet this challenge.

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