Favourite thing to do in my job: Putting dry ice in a sink and filling it full of water (ask your science teacher if you can try it!!! Its amazing, better than putting Potassium in water (also impressive))
I use maths to work out the market potential of cancer drugs (how much money they are going to make)
How do I work out a drug’s potential? And why does anyone care? Well… it costs over 1 billion dollars (and 10 years) to develop a drug – that’s A LOT! Pharmaceutical companies need to make sure they get this money back by picking drugs likely to make lots of money. I do lots of research to work out how much money the drug will make. To do this there are several important values I have to work out, they are:
I find out many people have the disease. This is called the Incidence of the disease.
Then I work out how much the drug will cost. To do this, we look at how complicated the drug is and how likely insurance companies and governments are to reimburse (i.e. pay for) the drug. This is called the Price.
Next we find out how often patients take the drug (the Rate).
And lastly, we need to know how many patients take the drug for the whole course (as opposed to losing their tablets or flushing them down the toilet). We call this the Compliance.
Then I multiply all those factors together to get a total value that the drug might make. i.e.:
Sales = Incidence x Price x Rate x Compliance
This helps pharmaceutical companies decide which drugs to develop. Because if it costs $1 billion to develop a drug, you don’t want to do that unless it’s going to make that (plus more) back in sales.
I love my job because it’s interesting but it also has real impact on our lives – we help decide what drug’s we will be treated with in the next decade. One example that will affect all you girls out there is the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil:
Excitingly, you are all going to benefit from this vaccine. At the moment, nearly 500,000 women a year get cervical cancer and the majority of those will sadly die from the disease. However, scientists discovered quite a while ago now that most cases of cervical cancer are caused by a nasty little virus called HPV:
Following on from this, several companies developed vaccines against the virus and hey presto, no virus means no cancer. This discovery and subsequent vaccine development will wipe out this kind of cancer for your generation – isn’t that amazing? So how much money does this vaccine have the potential to make? If you’re feeling brave, why not try and work it out for the UK – see if you can estimate numbers for the above factors (ask me for clues) and see what the UK market is.
My Typical Day
I talk to doctors and scientists, build mathematical models and plot graphs to work out how big cancer drugs are going to be.
In my team, we cover 150 different pharmaceutical companies and 1500 different drugs. I spend a lot of my day finding out clinical results (from attending conferences, talking to doctors and reading scientific papers) and using that information to build and change our drug forecasts if necessary. I then conduct presentations to tell people about the news.
The best part of my job (I think) is attending conferences. Every year I attend the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference. Here, approximately 50,000 clinical oncologists (cancer doctors), scientists and pharmaceutical company executives meet to discuss drugs in use for cancer. It’s exciting as there’s always new discoveries presented and I get to talk to some of the most famous scientists in the world. To give you an idea of how big the conference is, here’s a picture of one of the lecture halls and the exhibit hall (where drug companies present the clinical data on their drug).
What I'd do with the prize money
I don’t know: You guys can decide! I could… A) Buy a really nice pair of shoes and bag for work B) Fly to the largest cancer conference in the USA in May to talk to prominent oncologists (cancer doctors) or C) I support Breakthrough Breast Cancer – I could give to them and they could use to further research into breast cancer.
Following on from above – drop me an email with your vote and I’ll do whatever you decide!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Bubbly, fun and pretty ungeeky (for a scientist!)
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I discovered an important explanation behind why the virus I investigated in my PhD caused cancer in 5% of the people it infected – presenting my results to a conference of 500 really important scientists was amazing!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only if you count letting stinkbombs off in the corridor…
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I LOVE Brandon Flowers (he is beautiful) from The Killers
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year and raised £10,000 for charity!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To discover a cure for cancer, to discover multiple cures for multiple cancers (sadly there won’t be one cure for all cancers – ask me if you want to know why!), and to become a science documentary maker for the TV
Tell us a joke.
How do you tell the difference between male and female chromosomes? Pull down their genes!