"Women in senior positions, within life sciences, are role models”
Industrial Strategy What is it really like to be working at the sharp end of the UK's fast-moving life sciences industry? We talk to Dr Fiona Marshall from pharmaceutical company MSD to find out.
"I lead MSD's UK Discovery Centre in London, currently based at the London Bioscience Innovation Centre (LBIC), to undertake research into new medical advances."
“I'm pleased to say there are many women in senior positions across the company... that's good, because they're essential role models for the younger generation.”
"In life sciences, we have to take different routes to solve different problems: that requires diversity of thinking."
In her 25 years-plus working at the forefront of the life sciences industry, Fiona Marshall has faced various personal challenges. “Like most women, the classic one has been finding a work-life balance,” she admits. “Life sciences is a global environment, which means travelling a lot and working long hours. That can be difficult when you have a family to think about.”
Nevertheless, it's a circle that somehow needs squaring, she insists, because at MSD's UK Discovery Centre — and in the life sciences sector in general — diversity isn't just preferable, it's absolutely vital. That's why the company's flexible working policies have been so helpful. “I'm pleased to say there are many women in senior positions across the company,” says Marshall. “That's good, because they're essential role models for the younger generation.”
It's not just about the right gender balance, however. “In life sciences, we have to take different routes to solve different problems,” says Marshall. “That requires diversity of thinking. So we need people from different countries, backgrounds and ages, too: a blend of talent from everywhere.”
Marshall is busy leading a diverse team at the UK Discovery Centre and excited by the possibilities offered by the UK sector. “One of the Discovery Centre's aims is to train the next generation of drug hunters,” she says. “Over the last 10-15 years, the UK industry has been in decline with a number of pharma companies pulling out and research sites closing down. We're resetting that, taking advantage of London's strong science base and showing what significant investment in UK life sciences can achieve.”
Job code: GB-NON-00345
Date of prep: November 2018