COVID-19 dealt our sector a complex challenge, but it has also been a catalyst for organizations to come together in ways not seen before. The Pistoia Alliance has been working on projects at the grassroots level of technology, which requires cross-industry collaboration, for more than a decade so we know it can be done. But to see it on this scale is a game-changer, and one we must continue in order to achieve innovations that are now within our grasp. Life science organizations, charities, diagnostics firms, governments, regulators, and academia have collaboratively focused their resources on vaccine and therapy development. Now, I am advocating life science organizations do not let this new mentality slip. Maintaining their willingness to work together in the hope of continuing to make breakthroughs at the pace of the last twelve months.
Just over 100 years ago the world experienced another pandemic and with the limited knowledge available, it pulled together then to mitigate the spread of influenza and treat the many millions affected. Similarly, during COVID-19, the incredible work of scientists around the globe has seen collaborative projects produce hugely valuable outcomes. From repurposed therapies to novel vaccines, the normal timeline of R&D has been accelerated beyond measure.
In the 100 years between these two world-changing events, we’ve learned a lot more about the science of pandemics. But we’ve learned far less about the art of collaboration. This must change. Let’s not wait another hundred years to collaborate but instead use what we’ve learned to build a better, more open pharma industry. You only have to look at the many viable vaccines produced in just ten short months, and the openness we’ve seen around sharing data and knowledge, to understand the value of working together to tackle big problems. Mindsets must change from ‘we should collaborate’ to ‘we must collaborate to save lives.’
Though COVID-19 has rightfully dominated agendas over the last year, society faces other multifaceted challenges that require a cross-disciplinary approach. From antibiotic resistance to treating dementias, to the effects of climate change on humans, solutions will only be found if experts from across industries and between organizations pool resources. In a post-COVID-19 world, stakeholders must look for further opportunities to collaborate and address the pre-existing hurdles to cooperative working that hinder progress. For example, though willingness to share data has increased, the infrastructure to allow organizations to safely share data is still lacking.
The rapid innovation in the life sciences industry throughout COVID-19 has also opened many people’s eyes to what the sector can achieve. The industry now needs to collectively use this interest to attract more people to a career in science, who might not previously have considered it. This includes new entrants to the sector, but also those with skills in other areas, like data scientists, or people from any level considering a career change. Now is the perfect time to attract fresh talent to the industry, nursing applications are up 32% indicating that many people are looking at how they can make their career choice more meaningful.
A global pandemic isn’t over until we have global solutions. In the past year, I have seen members of the Pistoia Alliance step up their efforts even further, and my hope is that all stakeholders now realize the value of cooperation in solving problems. We also have an opportunity to capitalize on the current interest in our industry by making sure that young people see biopharma as a place where minds meet and innovation happens.
The Pistoia Alliance now has over 150 members ranging from global organizations and medium enterprises, to start-ups and individuals – collaborating as equals on projects that generate value for the worldwide life sciences and healthcare community. At the Alliance, we’ll be continuing efforts with our collaborative projects, and encourage anyone interested to get involved now by sending an email to Membership@PistoiaAlliance.org.