Express Pharma

People should know what they want to achieve

Suneela Thatte, VP and Head – R&D, India, Merck KGaA, in an interaction with Ashwini Prakash, Managing Partner India, Asia Pacific Lead-Pharma, Healthcare, Life Sciences and Consumer products, Stanton Chase India talks about the importance of enriching one’s career

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With over 20 years of experience in drug development and clinical research, what kept you engaged and motivated to pursue in this field?

In one phrase, it is the sense of purpose. I believe drug development professionals are privileged to be able to bring hope to patients with “unmet medical needs” and to their care givers. No matter what role we play in clinical development, drug development and pharma, we all contribute to this cause and the pandemic has proven to be a classic example of it. For all the medical and scientific advances we were proud of, the pandemic took us by surprise and completely swept us off our feet. Developing an effective vaccine in limited time was the only hope for human society to see some normalcy in our lives. Astonishingly, the world came together and worked towards the goal with such less turnaround time.

I started in this field 25 years ago with an intent to explore and see what clinical research and drug development holds for me and my future. It was a business of science set on very strong foundation of ethics and it presented immense learning opportunity. I got into this field with a mindset of getting to learn something new and being part of scientific advances. What further intrigued me was another aspect of R&D, where you are not actually doing lab work but managing a process which goes into that wider aspect of the research. Drug development as a field gives you opportunities to meet and discuss scientific merits and demerits of a certain drug with key opinion leaders. A combination of all of this ensured that I stayed on.

You have worked across clinical research, operations, business management and policy advocacy in the biopharma industry. How did you transition within these roles and how did these experiences shape your overall professional career? Were you proactive or reactive in exploring these roles?

When I started working, it was more of reactive approach where people noticed my capability and assigned me more responsibilities. I realised later that if I just leave it to others then I am not doing anything actively about my own career and letting others to shape it. This led me to think – what organisation wants me to do and do I want the same thing? Or, do I need something else at this stage of my career to further enhance my professional excellence? I decided to explore multiple channels and started actively seeking different roles and responsibilities. I was fo