Fiona Lawrence's International Women's Day blog: Swapping sectors is good…

On International Women's Day we would like to share a blog written by Fiona Lawrence, our Director of Research and Clinical Development.
Swapping sectors is good….
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by medicine. As a teenager I wanted to train to be a doctor but, in my day, you needed to be good at physics to do that for some unfathomable reason! So, it was time for some lateral thinking and enrollment in a pharmacology (study of drugs) degree. My ambition was to work on a ground- breaking project to cure the world of malaria or cancer or tuberculosis or heart disease. Amazingly, thirty-six years later, these are all still relevant goals. I had never heard of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
On graduating I joined the pharma industry as I wanted to work in clinical research and bring new medicines to patients. Who could imagine how complicated a task it is in reality….
I have worked on projects in several different disease areas including one, rather pleasingly, for malaria. The journey has certainly been interesting although, I have to confess, not very productive in terms of cracking any major problem. In fact, in all these years, I have never worked on a new drug that has made it all the way through the testing process to patients. Sadly, only about 1 in every 10,000 novel compounds tested becomes a marketed medicine.
My last biotech assignment was for a project working on a treatment for Duchenne. I quickly became aware of the awful impact Duchenne has on the lives of the patients and their families. Duchenne is just one of around 7000 rare diseases that have few, if any, treatment options let alone cures.
Again, devastatingly, the project failed. It was in the aftermath of this latest disappointment that I met Emily and my journey took a surprising turn into the so called third sector. Duchenne UK was born out of a frustration with the slow pace of progress in finding effective treatments. As a patient organization we have a few advantages over the traditional industry approach. We can respond quickly to new opportunities and we are also able to harness the skills and knowledge of Duchenne patients and parents to look for effective solutions themselves.
I have been working with Duchenne UK as Director of Research and Clinical Development for one year now and I can honestly say that it has been the most exciting, productive year of my professional life so far. I have learned so much and my understanding has broadened enormously so that I fully embrace the patient plea ‘do research with us, not on us.
We are determined to end Duchenne. We collaborate with doctors, academic scientists, industry, regulators, other charities and patients in a carefully constructed programme of research projects that work towards accelerating the search for effective treatments. I am very proud to be part of Duchenne UK and I firmly believe that I am finally working on a project that will succeed.

Published on 8 March 2017

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