Patient Impact Beyond the Lab - Business Development Internship with LifeArc

I’m now coming to the end of the final week of my 10-week internship with LifeArc and I can’t quite believe how quickly the summer has gone by. It seems like only yesterday I received a call from Kelly Glass to say that I had been successful in the interview for the role of Business Development Intern! After initially being hesitant to look into roles that were not lab-based, I could not be more pleased that I decided to take a leap and try something completely new.

LifeArc is a medical research charity which aims to bridge the gap between exciting scientific discoveries and commercially viable solutions for patients. This is such an exciting area of science to be working in, as there are so many innovative novel technologies out there, yet so many barriers prevent them from reaching and benefiting patients. Working in this space is extremely rewarding and a crucial part of the journey from lab to patient, so I feel incredibly lucky to be involved.

My first week kickstarted with a trip down to the LifeArc site in Stevenage with the VR stem outreach intern, Alessandra. We got the train down to Stevenage and enjoyed some tapas with some of the LifeArc team before having an early (ish!) night to prepare for the OneScience Review Day at the GSK site the following day. The day was full of inspiring talks from scientists at LifeArc, explaining all the exciting projects going on behind the scenes, from antibody humanisation to diagnostics for TB. We also got to meet the Industrial placement students and some members of the BD team that I would be working alongside. The day finished with a barbeque in the sun before heading back to the hotel. The following morning, we had a tour of the LifeArc labs in Stevenage which was the first time I had been in an industry-standard lab – it was very high-tech! It was then time to travel back to Edinburgh and get stuck into some projects lined up for the duration of the internship.

My manager was great at considering my interests when setting me up on projects. Since I study neuroscience, I had a lot of involvement in the Motor Neuron Disease translational challenge, but I also got to take part in opportunity and project calls relating to Global Health, Paediatric Oncology and Chronic Respiratory Infection. LifeArc invested so much into my learning and development; arranging for me to attend training courses in Intellectual property and competitive intelligence, as well as allowing me to conduct interviews with key opinion leaders. I also got to meet with people from all corners of the organisation, analysts from the opportunity assessment group, business managers from technology transfer, translational challenge leads, as well as members from internal communications. This was great for giving me a flavour of how the organisation worked as a whole, and it was fantastic to see that patient impact really was at the centre of everything at LifeArc.

One of the main projects I have been working on at LifeArc is conducting landscaping research on medical devices for Motor neuron disease, with aims to identify unmet needs in this landscape and opportunities where LifeArc can collaborate, fund and form partnerships to help fill these gaps. This involved conducting competitive intelligence, market analysis and using GlobalData to access information on medical devices currently on the market and in development. I also conducted a KOL interview with a Clinical Neurologist and MND researcher to gain a clinician’s perspective on current patient needs and gaps in the space. With this information, I then selected projects aiming to address these unmet needs which could benefit from collaboration with LifeArc, whether that be in the form of funding, de-risking, or help steering towards a more patient-centred endpoint. I presented my work on this report to members of the MND core team, as well as the BD team, to which it was well received and triggered some interesting discussions about the challenges of integrating technologies into the NHS.

As I sit at my desk in the London office, following 10-weeks of immense learning and personal growth, I am confident that this will be an experience I go on to talk about fondly. Previously, I thought that if I wanted to create patient impact in my career, I would be working in a lab making scientific discoveries. Now, I have learned that so much goes into developing a successful medical innovation, beyond the lab.

Written by: Rachael McRobb