The pharmaceutical industry has taken center stage over the past two years. The best scientific minds developed a vaccine for COVID-19 in record time, helping bring the pandemic under control – in some parts of the world, at least.
So should students consider a pharmacy course and if so, where can it be taken?
We talked to three people working in the pharmacy sector. Professor John Golmer is a pharmaceutical chemist who lectures at Trinity College, and is involved in drug development and research projects. Liza O’Brien is the Director of Human Resources at the pharma firm Ipsen Ireland. Muiren O’Horra is the technical expert at Ipsen.
How did you come to work in this field?
Muiren O’Horra: I was interested in science since childhood. It was my favorite subject in school, and I took biology and chemistry for my leaving certificate. I started a general science course at NUI Galway in 2015 and in 2018, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology. During my undergraduate degree I completed a module related to using microbial cells to produce pharmaceutical products – and ultimately helping patients. This sparked my interest in the biopharmaceutical industry and keeping this in mind, I continued my studies and completed my masters degree in Bioprocess Engineering in 2019.
John Gilmour: I trained as a chemist and got my PhD in chemistry, then joined Trinity, a pharmaceutical spinout at UniMed plc. I joined pharmacy school in 1998 as a lecturer and have been involved in drug development and research projects.
Why can one consider making a career in Pharma?
Liza O’Brien: COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the perception of pharma in the public mind. A recent national survey by Ipsen found that 89 percent of 18-24 year olds have a greater respect for the pharma sector’s work and innovation since the start of the pandemic. We have seen what science, research, and collaboration can accomplish in such a short amount of time, as many vaccines have been rapidly developed, tested and approved over the past 18 months. It has contributed to saving millions of lives across the world.
Muiren Oh: I have always wanted a meaningful career where I get an opportunity to improve people’s lives. It is a career where I have had the opportunity to impact the lives of many people through supporting the creation and release of life-changing products, research and drug development. I was really interested in applying the research and studies that I completed in my college years in a practical environment. Helping to provide medicines and solutions for some of the world’s rarest diseases is really beneficial, as it is part of the future of healthcare and striving to help more good people.
What can a student expect to learn in a Pharma course?
John G: Communication is a strong element of pharmacy training, as pharmacists have to communicate with a variety of stakeholders, including patients and healthcare professionals. The curriculum includes group work, and students gain problem-solving and analytical skills. We ask students to engage with industrial issues that are brought to us, such as where a product fails a sustainability study. Graduates learn about professional and regulatory environments, patient safety issues, and elements of the social sciences.
What are the entry routes for pharmacy courses at Trinity, RCSI and UCC? Pharmacy-related courses are available at technical universities and institutes of technology, as well as pharmacy apprenticeships (see Apprenticeship.ie)
John G: Any good science or engineering qualification will provide one with job opportunities in technical roles in the pharma industry in product development, regulatory, manufacturing and distribution.
Which graduates does the field take?
Liza O’B: Industry hires from all disciplines and backgrounds, particularly science and engineering, but also business disciplines such as human resources, finance, procurement and supply chain. It is a common misconception that we only hire those who have a degree and a PhD. We also hire based on experience and most importantly – ability. Pharma sector has also been very active in the field of apprenticeship in recent years.
Muiren Oh: What sets me apart most in terms of skill requirements, as a recent graduate joining Epson, includes: good organization, communication, teamwork (to achieve the same goal of helping patients together everyone doing the work), collaboration, technical skills, problem solving and an analytical eye.
What types of jobs and career opportunities are available?
Liza O’B: When people think of pharmaceuticals, they often think of people with white lab coats with a microscope. Our recent Ipsen research actually found that 48 percent of people aged 18-24 don’t really understand what kinds of jobs and career opportunities are available in the pharmaceutical sector. Of course, we have scientists, but we also have a wide range of skill sets such as supply chain specialist, finance roles, human resources business partner, quality and compliance associate and almost every other role you can think of. All of these roles help ensure that new drugs are developed, validated, and supplied to patients.
John G: [Besides working as a pharmacist in pharmacies], in European law, the role of a “qualified person” includes the responsibility to ensure that a drug is manufactured in accordance with regulatory approvals or manufacturing licences.
Panel: Big Pharma, Big Problem?
The pharmaceutical industry has long had an image problem. That image problem – and mistrust of “Big Pharma” – is directly linked to the low take-up of vaccines in some parts of the world.
While the industry produces life-saving drugs and has transformed and prolonged human lives, its model of maximizing shareholder profit has given rise to scandals.
In 2012, science writer and academic Dr. Ben Goldacre wrote about how the industry suppressed the results of drug tests and engaged in highly questionable behavior.
It’s not perfect, but there are signs that the pharma industry – one of the most tightly regulated in the world – is changing, although online, some wild, baseless conspiracies are spreading.
Research by Ipsen* shows that since the pandemic, 71 percent of people have more respect for the sector, with 15 percent considering moving into the health or pharma sectors.
“Covid has changed the perception of pharma in the public mindset,” O’Brien says. “We have seen what science, research and collaboration can achieve in such a short amount of time, as many vaccines have been rapidly developed, tested and approved over the past 18 months. It has contributed to saving millions of lives across the world. Ultimately, industry-led research and development is a major lever of social good, and for us at Ipsen our investment in discovering and developing new treatments to help patients with unmet needs and rare diseases is what really drives our team of 165 shared motivator. in Ireland. ,
Academic scientists have had the opportunity to communicate the scientific message during this pandemic, says Gilmour. “Goldcare exposes some of the abuses in the industry, but it is led largely by people who have dedicated careers to profitable discoveries and developments – which is why they enter the business: to save lives. To improve. There is a reputation associated with discovering new drugs and discovering new drugs is commercially beneficial.”
O’Brien advises people to be selective and sensible about their sources of information online, especially when it comes to health.
“Opt for trusted, data-based sources, such as hse.ie And content that is also trusted or developed by healthcare professionals,” she says. “It can be easy to get distracted when there are so many theories and personal opinions shared on our social media feeds, but I always take a step back and remind myself to ask, ‘Where’s the evidence’—and the actual science. Where is it to support it?”
Gilmour says: “Yes, there are business ideas – companies that have moved out of medical fields where it’s hard to make money, but the state can come here to encourage research and modify commercial behavior in neglected areas. Overall The industry is ethically motivated and highly regulated.”
* Survey conducted by polling firm i-REACH among a national representative of 1,000 consumers.