15th March, 2019

BREATH PhD Team Visit GlaxoSmithKline

General News

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is currently one of the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies with an annual turnover of £30.8bn per annum.

To provide industry-focused training, seventeen PhD students from the Border & Regions Airways Training Hub (BREATH) were invited to the Brentford and Stevenage GSK sites for a two day visit.  They formed part of a larger BREATH team of thirty-five scientists from the Dundalk Institute of Technology, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). The collective team were given guided tours of the facilities and presentations by innovative GSK scientists, engineers, marketing executives, department heads and researchers, all of whom are vital to the process of product development from research and innovation to distribution.  Students and principal investigators had the unique opportunity to engage with associates of the company and learn about their recent work.   This included the utilisation of deep learning to improve diagnostics, the use of virtual reality to train the workforce in invaluable techniques, the process of guiding a product from pre-market to market and the general process by which teams of multidisciplinary scientists design, manufacture and test products.

GSK is at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry, and many members of the company are proud to work with GSK given the company’s focus on improving and saving people’s lives. Performance is only one of three main motivations of GSK, as they also aim to drive innovation by investing in technical and scientific excellence.  This is reflected by the company’s £3.9bn investment in research and development over the last year and their collaborations with research teams throughout the world.  Additionally, GSK strives to develop trust with the global community and therefore has a long-standing commitment to transparency enforced by a strict rule that all clinical trials data are published within 18 months of operation cessation.

The highpoint of the entire tour had to be the lecture given by Dr Dave Allen, Head of Medicine Design at GSK. Dr Allen explained the changing techniques employed in the design and development of medicines particularity within the area of respiratory medicine and how the focus is moving into personalised medicine, citing GSK’s partnership with 23andme, a personal genomics company as one of the many ways in which GSK is pushing the boundaries of modern medicine. We were also delighted that Dr Paul Life, Head Scientific Operations, and the top-man at GSK Stevenage was able to take the time to speak to us about GSK’s current strategies towards medicines development. The new Ellipta platform, that enables one device to be used for a range of single and combination therapies for the treatment of asthma and COPD, is one such example which encapsulates GSK’s mission statement of helping people do more, feel better and live longer – a phrase that was reverberated with passion by all the speakers over the 2 day visit.

This unique opportunity provided by BREATH, gave us great insight into the industrial pharmaceutical sector and is one that will surely be of great benefit to all the PhD students who attended when considering future opportunities.

All visiting PhDs appreciated the chance to visit GSK and wish to thank GSK Medical Scientific Liaison, Alan Ullman, GSK Director of Scientific Engagement, Gordon Hutchinson, and QUB Professor Lorcan McGarvey (UWS Visiting Professor) for organising the visit.  It proved an excellent opportunity for the group to network and become informed of the different requirements and routes available, especially for those considering industry as a career direction after the completion of their doctoral studies.

  Welcome to Stevenage by Dr Paul Life, Head Scientific Operations, GSK.

  Dr Dave Allen, Head Medicines Design, GSK.

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