President of The Pistoia Alliance: “Let’s not wait another 100 years to collaborate”

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Dr Steve Arlington, President of The Pistoia Alliance, a global not-for-profit advocating for greater collaboration in biopharma, has called on the life science industry to learn the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and seek out more opportunities to collaborate.

COVID-19 dealt the sector a complex challenge, but it has also been a catalyst for organizations to come together in ways not seen before. Life science organizations, charities, diagnostics firms, governments, regulators, and academia have collaboratively focused their resources on vaccine and therapy development. Now, Dr Arlington is urging life science organizations to maintain their willingness to work together in the hope of continuing to make breakthroughs at the pace of the last twelve months.

“One hundred years before COVID-19, the world experienced another pandemic. With limited knowledge, 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,” said Dr Arlington.

“In the one hundred 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. 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, 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. Dr Arlington comments that the industry can 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.

“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. At the Alliance, we’ll be continuing efforts with our collaborative projects, and encourage anyone interested to get involved.”

The Pistoia Alliance 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. The Alliance provides members with a legal framework to enable straightforward and secure pre-competitive collaboration.

About The Pistoia Alliance:

The Pistoia Alliance is a global, not-for-profit members’ organization made up of life science companies, technology and service providers, publishers, and academic groups working to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D. It was conceived in 2007 and incorporated in 2009 by representatives of AstraZeneca, GSK, Novartis and Pfizer who met at a conference in Pistoia, Italy. Its projects transform R&D through pre-competitive collaboration. It overcomes common R&D obstacles by identifying the root causes, developing standards and best practices, sharing pre-competitive data and knowledge, and implementing technology pilots. There are currently over 150 member companies; members collaborate on projects that generate significant value for the worldwide life sciences R&D community, using The Pistoia Alliance’s proven framework for open innovation.