I work in clinical development, a role in which I focus on a particular pharmaceutical drug and investigate how to move it forward for the benefit of patients. That might mean designing trials to receive approval by one of the regulatory agencies or, if it’s already been approved, looking at how it can be improved further to make it even more valuable for patients.
My current focus is in the field of rare diseases, and for the past three years I have been working on a particular hormone product for a very rare disease with a high unmet medical need called hypoparathyroidism. This condition is caused by inadequate production of the parathyroid hormone and is very rare.
For a long time, these kinds of very rare diseases were neglected. Because of this, if today you can develop an effective treatment, you have the opportunity to make a transformative leap in patient care, fundamentally changing their lives for the better.
I know from my previous career as a physician of ten years just how significant an impact a new treatment can have. In caring for patients with chronic diseases over the long term, I saw for myself just how hard it was for them to cope, and how sometimes their medication failed to relieve them of all of their symptoms. Then, when an effective treatment became available it could turn their lives around completely.
From physician to clinical development
My switch from working as a physician to joining the team on the clinical development side came about following an opportunity to collaborate with a small company on a Type 1 Diabetes project. Through forming a relationship with their CEO and team I was struck by their passion, integrity and dedication to helping patients.
This led me to feel that if I switched to actually designing trials then I could apply both my scientific knowledge and my understanding of patient needs, and ultimately my work would have far greater reach. It would also open up my career to all kinds of medicine again, as being a physician my career path would tend to only become more specialized.
It’s now been three years since I joined the industry, and although I’m no longer working face-to-face with patients, I do hear of the impact of our work through my collaboration with physicians and other healthcare professionals. Occasionally I have the opportunity to meet patients face-to-face too—at a recent think tank event a patient's fathers came up to me, and told me simply, "Thank you. Thank you for what you're doing."
A diverse team working towards a common goal
I also enjoy being part of a team – just as in medicine you have the physicians, nurses, social workers and nutritionists dedicated to taking care of the patient together, on this side we have the same teamwork, except that the members have different roles, such as clinical operations, statistics, pharmacology, regulatory, data management, compliance, device and product supply, drug safety and business. There’s a strong feeling that we’re all working together to identify and focus on patient needs, think about the product we have, and determine how we can best help patients in a safe and effective way.
This feeling extends far beyond our team, and in fact it’s something that’s made a big impression on me since I joined Takeda through the integration with Shire. With over two centuries of experience of pushing progress in healthcare, you can dare to think big, and to have a long-term vision. With such a talented, energized team and a very open and communicative leadership, there’s a culture that encourages us to go from “We know we can do this," to "Let's go get it done!" while at the same time daring us to think far into the future, allowing us to be bold and visionary in our work.
Great talent, imagination, bold thinking and the vision to ask where we want to be in five, ten, twenty years—I think these are all essential ingredients when seeking innovative breakthroughs to transform patients’ lives, and I feel that we have them all here.
The words I live by
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought."
In medicine, there is a large body of evidence established over centuries that physicians learn to master in order to take care of patients. This in and of itself can take more than a lifetime. This quote reminds me to focus on the pursuit of scientific discovery over following specific paths taken by others; to pursue bold and innovative approaches to problem solving in medicine.
Based in Boston, Nicole worked as a physician in pediatric endocrinology, for ten years at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston before moving to the pharmaceutical industry. As a Global Clinical Development Lead at Takeda focusing on rare diseases, she enjoys working with a talented team who are empowered to pursue bold goals with the aim of transforming patient care.