10 episodes

Every medicine in your pharmacy has a human story behind it. Real people doing real work and living real lives.

We all have romantic ideas about scientists working late into the evening or doctors dropping everything to answer a phone call about a patient. You can almost envision the moment when one of those researchers finally solves an intellectual puzzle and leaps into action. Their eyes go from an empty stare to an alert laser-like focus. They sit a bit taller and start to read frantically. I am sure you’ve seen those movies too.

But is it real? Is that how it really happens?

That’s what we intend to explore in “Improbable Developments.”

Each month we will talk to someone who was or is in the trenches of biopharma R&D and let them tell their story. We’ll be talking about medicines you may know and some that never saw the light of day. We’ll talk to people involved at the bench in the earliest stages through to those who run the clinical trials and present the data to regulators around the world. We'll even be talking to patients who have joined the effort.

The science of drug discovery and development creates a rich landscape for all sorts of stories to unfold. The technical challenges, the urgency to help patients, career aspirations, the fight for resources, and many other factors all work together to produce a complex and enthralling human drama. In our monthly discussions, we will look at this from many different angles.

Through our discussions, we hope to give you a real appreciation for the types of people behind the medicines you take and the medical devices you may use. You’ll get to know each of them a little bit and start to understand what they have in common and how different and unique they really are.

https://salemoaks.com

Improbable Developments Salem Oaks

    • Medicine

Every medicine in your pharmacy has a human story behind it. Real people doing real work and living real lives.

We all have romantic ideas about scientists working late into the evening or doctors dropping everything to answer a phone call about a patient. You can almost envision the moment when one of those researchers finally solves an intellectual puzzle and leaps into action. Their eyes go from an empty stare to an alert laser-like focus. They sit a bit taller and start to read frantically. I am sure you’ve seen those movies too.

But is it real? Is that how it really happens?

That’s what we intend to explore in “Improbable Developments.”

Each month we will talk to someone who was or is in the trenches of biopharma R&D and let them tell their story. We’ll be talking about medicines you may know and some that never saw the light of day. We’ll talk to people involved at the bench in the earliest stages through to those who run the clinical trials and present the data to regulators around the world. We'll even be talking to patients who have joined the effort.

The science of drug discovery and development creates a rich landscape for all sorts of stories to unfold. The technical challenges, the urgency to help patients, career aspirations, the fight for resources, and many other factors all work together to produce a complex and enthralling human drama. In our monthly discussions, we will look at this from many different angles.

Through our discussions, we hope to give you a real appreciation for the types of people behind the medicines you take and the medical devices you may use. You’ll get to know each of them a little bit and start to understand what they have in common and how different and unique they really are.

https://salemoaks.com

    Mary Rofael, MD: Helping Companies Communicate Complex Data in Ways that Matter

    Mary Rofael, MD: Helping Companies Communicate Complex Data in Ways that Matter

    “I think it is really important for the public and the patient Community to learn a little more about FDA advisory committees because these are public meetings and they're accessible for anyone to attend and learn from.” Mary Rofael, MD

    An FDA Advisory Committee is one of the biggest moments in the development of a new treatment. As a drug developer, I consider the FDA Ad Comm as the pinnacle of my career. During these hearings, a company is given a short time to make the case for the approval of their New Drug Application (NDA) and answer questions from a panel of independent experts. The FDA has a similar opportunity to present their concerns and question to that panel of experts. And all this is done in public.

    Needless to say, consolidating 12-15 years of collected data into a couple of hours is daunting. Over the past 20+ years, Mary Rofael, MD has built a business, ProEd Communications, that helps guide companies through this major event. In this episode were learn how those companies prepare, what ProEd Communications brings to the table, and why Mary finds this work so fulfilling.

    • 25 min
    Rob Lambkin-Williams: Mapping Out the Quest for a COVID Vaccine

    Rob Lambkin-Williams: Mapping Out the Quest for a COVID Vaccine

    The impact of COVID-19 is literally being felt around the world. Humanity has been racing to find weapons to fight this invisible enemy. We know so very little about how the virus is operating. This can leave us feeling confused and isolated.

    We speak to Dr. Rob Lambkin-Williams from his home where he is locked down for three months because he is vulnerable to complications of COVID. Rob is a UK-based virologist who has been studying influenza for most of his career. His expertise applies directly to the COVID pandemic.

    We talk to Rob about the scientific and regulatory steps that must be taken to bring an effective vaccine to the millions who need it. He lays out a map of these steps and gives us insight into the challenges each one brings.

    Join us on this look into what is likely to unfold in the next year or two.

    You can follow Rob's work and his blog at VirolologyConsult.com

    (Note: We recorded this conversation at the end of March 2020. The situation is constantly changing, and some details may already seem out of date.)

    • 36 min
    Kieran Geoghegan: Life of a Scientist

    Kieran Geoghegan: Life of a Scientist

    "For me it was a question of dying and going to heaven for 32 years."

    Dr. Kieran Geoghegan was inspired by the scientific and technological breakthroughs of the NASA programs in the 1960’s. This became a lifelong quest to get to the bottom of things and resulted in a wonderful career as a scientist himself. This innate curiosity and determination led him to pursue his PhD in biochemistry at Cambridge College in the UK. He began studying DNA, the very molecules of genetics. However, he found the variety and complexity of proteins much more fascinating.

    His primary motivation was to live the life of a scientist. He found that working within a company with the shared goal of bringing new medicines to patients offered him this opportunity. He enjoyed the challenges of the applied science and also found time to solve some more fundamental biochemical challenges. His 32-year career at Pfizer spanned the very era when biotechnology emerged as a new industrial force.

    At each fork in the road, he followed his passion, his skills, and curiosity. This led him to a very high position on the scientific ladder at Pfizer,

    Dr. Geoghegan has written two books.

    Creating Cures: A Young Scientist’s First Job in American Biopharma. He discusses life in an industrial research organization, the duality of business and science, and the opportunities working in such an organization brings.

    Enzymes, Wizards and Secret Passages: Intuitive Lessons in Biochemistry This is a more technical book about some of the hard-won lessons and shortcuts in biochemistry. It is probably most suited for those in the field.

    • 43 min
    Robert Weker: Against All Odds

    Robert Weker: Against All Odds

    Rob Weker’s story is remarkable for many reasons.


    First and foremost, he has beaten cancer.


    Not once. Not twice. But three times.


    Getting the third diagnosis, this time it was pancreatic cancer, really got his attention. Only 7% of pancreatic patients live beyond 5-years.


    I met Rob at last year’s Patients as Partners (https://theconferenceforum.org/conferences/patients-as-partners/overview/) conference and really enjoyed his perspective. His plea was for the conference attendees to walk in his boots. And yes, he had those boots on stage. 


    You see, Rob is also a veteran of pharmaceutical R&D. He had a deeper message for his professional colleagues. In his professional life, he turned his propensity for asking questions into a career looking at the process improvement and quality.


    Rob is very methodical in how he analyzes problems – whether at work or as a patient. His experience has taught him that it is very important to keep asking questions until there are none. In this episode, he shares a few stories of how this has worked well for him as he battled for his life.


    Obviously, on the health side, he has beaten the odds. He just passed the 5-year mark since his diagnosis.


    And now he is turning his energy to bridge the gap between patients, industry, and the rest of healthcare.


    You can read Rob’s blog on LinkedIn ( click here (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/through-patient-lens-dont-rely-luck-pro-active-choose-robert-weker/) ) It’s about being proactive and not relying on luck.

    • 46 min
    Carol Marzetta: Living to Help Other People

    Carol Marzetta: Living to Help Other People

    This month listen to Dr. Carol Marzetta talk about how the urge to help other people has shaped her career and her life. From her earliest days as a Discovery Biologist, she has found he passion in work that tries to help people in need. She shares with us some stories about the emotional pendulum around some promising cholesterol lowering programs that did not make the grade.

    She also opens up about the challenges managing a groundbreaking clinical program for Viagra®, including learning how devastating male erectile dysfunction could be to individuals and their families. While setbacks are expected in Discovery and management pressure is expected for a high-value clinical project, Carol always comes back to the need for helping people to keep her going.

    In fact, after leaving industry, she spent years working with non-profits like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to bring medicines and vaccines to children in the poorest of countries.

    Although I have known her for years, the discussion reminded me of why I liked working with her so much. She was always there to help.

    • 29 min
    Donald Kirsch: Getting to Know a Drug Hunter

    Donald Kirsch: Getting to Know a Drug Hunter

    We’ve all been there. You are at a party and someone asks, “So, what do you do?” Dr. Kirsch always found it hard to explain his career as a discovery scientist. He decided to write a book about it.   (https://amzn.to/36j59ts)  is a colorful, fact-filled narrative history of the search for new medicines from our Neolithic forebears to the professionals of today, and from quinine and aspirin to Viagra, Prozac, and Lipitor.  


    We talk to Dr. Kirsch about his own experiences as a scientist, the daunting odds of finding an actual medicine, and the additional human hurdles that can make these discoveries even harder. He also talks to us about the things he learned as he wrote  (https://amzn.to/36j59ts)  with his co-author Ogi Ogas, Ph.D.  


    Credits:


    Sound Design: Jacob Tompkins ( losstudiosnc@gmail.com (mailto:losstudiosnc@gmail.com) )  


    Music: “Origins” Per Kilstofte  https://machinimasound.com/ (https://machinimasound.com/)  


    “AS – Tribal O1” Aaron Spencer  https://machinimasound.com/ (https://machinimasound.com/)  


    Graphic Design: Heather McCullen ( heathermccullen@salemoaks.com (mailto:heathermccullen@salemoaks.com) )  

    • 37 min

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