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Pfizer at Discovery Park joined by McLaren, IBM and Unilever for Sharing Science workshop 22 October, 2018

Speakers from McLaren, IBM and Unilever’s former chief scientist brought the future of computational technologies to life at a one-day workshop and Expo, organised by Pfizer’s Sharing Science team at Discovery Park.

The event, held in The Gateway building, also gave Pfizer the opportunity to talk about digital transformation and the role of predictive science.  It was attended by Pfizer staff and representatives from a number of other science businesses located on site as well as students from Canterbury Christ Church University.

We caught up with Brian Henry, Vice  President, Pharmaceutical Sciences, based at Sandwich, to talk about the work of his team at Discovery Park and the importance of the event to driving scientific understanding and future collaboration.

Tell me a little about your role and the work of your team at Discovery Park?

Pfizer at Discovery Park employs about 700 people and around half of those are in pharmaceutical sciences.  We take the initial idea and figure out how to scale it up to create tablets that can be used to support clinical trials we run around the world.

How pivotal is the work to Pfizer’s drug discovery programme?

We’re critically important. Pharmaceutical Sciences has two, what you would call R&D facilities within Pfizer.  One here at Discovery Park and one on the East Coast in the US. Because of some of the unique facilities we have – like the Pilot Plant – we reckon about 90% of Pfizer’s drugs will come through Sandwich at some stage in their life.

What other work takes place at Pfizer, Sandwich?

One of Pfizer’s major regulatory submission hubs is located at Sandwich. Around half of our global regulatory submissions are managed by the team here at Discovery Park.  They’re really important to the commercial side of the business.

Tell us more about today’s Sharing Science event

Today’s event has been about trying to stimulate the scientific community on the site as a whole to think about how we can use data and be more successful at predicting outcomes for the future.

So, in the Pfizer context, it’s about building predictive systems to help us to do our job better, more efficiently. It’s cheaper, faster to do an experiment on a computer than it is to run clinical trials so the more we can do that the better.

But a lot of the tenants on site will have similar needs in their own fields. Some of the tenants on site may have views and thoughts as to how they could help the other partners on site as part of the ecosystem that exists here.

What has been your highlight from the day so far?

You got a sense with the talk from McLaren (pictured above) of how good this could be. They’re 10 to 15 years ahead of us on that journey of turning data into knowledge. For them it’s making the decisions on either how to design a car or during the race. So, it gave a really inspiring view that this is something that can be done; and something that’s not miles away. It’s something that can be done now. It’s a question of how we organise ourselves.

The other highlight has been meeting the people. There’s an energy and a buzz in there with lots of people with lots of different views; sharing and networking and communicating. That’s so positive to see – from local universities through to scientists in our groups – talking together and sharing ideas.

How good was it to have other businesses from the site in the audience?

We really want to help build and grow a community of like-minded companies or companies that can work together. That will be a real driver in helping Discovery Park to prosper and thrive, I think.

What have been the key takeaways for people attending the event today?

Appreciate you’re not on your own. If you’ve got a good idea, find someone to share and talk to. There are enough people around within Pfizer and across Discovery Park who can turn your idea into something more tangible.

How beneficial are events like this?

This is actually the second event we’ve had this year. The first one was a private Pfizer innovation event.  I can see this as being a series of things we do.  It helps contribute to having a vibrant science park.