Dr. Sarah Stevens Discusses Her Career in the Pharmaceutical Industry with Raman Sehgal on the Molecule to Market Podcast
Dr. Sarah Stevens, Senior Vice President & Head of Early Development & Late-Stage Commercial at Quotient Sciences, recently spoke with Raman Sehgal, host of the Molecule to Market podcast, about her career in the pharmaceutical industry and the differentiated drug development services that Quotient Sciences offers to customers.
From starting her career as a registered pharmacist in the UK to growing within the pharmaceutical industry and moving to the US, Sarah reflects on the various roles she has held, including as General Manager & Site Head of a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) prior to joining Quotient Sciences in 2020. In her current role at Quotient Sciences, Sarah has oversight for all global sites and operational functions, from early drug development programs through to late-stage and commercial manufacturing, including deployment of the Quotient Sciences Translational Pharmaceutics® platform for integrated drug development. Sarah shares insight for young women pursuing careers in the industry and later in the conversation discusses how Quotient Sciences helps customers accelerate drug development programs though integrated service offerings.
What is your perspective of being a female leader in the pharmaceutical industry, and what would your advice be to younger women in the industry?
I think this is a huge topic, and my perspective on it has evolved over the years. When I was younger and starting out in the industry, I didn’t necessarily give it a second thought. However, my perspective changed as I moved into General Manager and Site Head roles, and I started to see and feel the relevance of it more. Throughout your career, you grow and develop experience, and it’s important that you don’t try to be something you’re not, like adopting stereotypically male behaviors and attitudes. It’s important to understand the value that a female perspective can bring to the table. I’m more actively aware of this now, and I see the importance of diversity in the boardroom. Within Quotient Sciences, I feel very fortunate that our senior leadership team is equally male and female. This speaks strongly of the culture, legacy, and intention of Quotient Sciences’ leadership, and it’s also something that I think about more proactively now myself.
My encouragement to any younger female leader is to be who you are and to understand the value that diversity and a female perspective can bring. If you feel you’re missing out on opportunities or being discriminated against, I encourage you to speak up and have those difficult conversations with your manager or mentor to dissect the problem. Be analytical about the situation and make sure you’re doing all the things you should be doing for your own career development. Don’t hide away and assume that’s just the way it is.
What drug development services does Quotient Sciences offer, and how is this unique within the pharmaceutical industry?
At Quotient Sciences, the main challenges we saw in the pharmaceutical outsourcing industry were the silos. Not only do these silos slow down the drug development process in getting new medicines to market, but they also increase the risks and costs for our customers. We know this for a fact when customers come to us. We saw that there was a better way to overcome these obstacles via the integration of services under a single service provider.
Quotient Sciences is an organization that uniquely provides end-to-end services across drug development, including drug substance manufacturing, material science and pre-formulation capabilities, formulation development, GMP manufacturing, in-house clinics for dosing healthy volunteers in Phase I/first-in-human studies, data analysis, and then in real time using human pharmacokinetic (PK) data to feed back into formulation development and manufacturing strategies. This unique make/test platform is called Translational Pharmaceutics.
We’ve been doing Translational Pharmaceutics for over 15 years and successfully completed hundreds of studies. This approach eliminates the white space between these traditionally siloed service areas, which enables our customers to get critical early data faster and respond or adapt, rather than relying on animal models to make assumptions that ultimately prove not to correlate with human data. This leads to significant time and cost savings for our customers. We offer all these capabilities within one organization, within a relatively small footprint of five sites across the US and UK. This means that we can retain the intimacy of a smaller aligned single project team that covers this vast range of different services, all the way from drug substance to late-phase and commercial manufacturing.
Key to the success of this approach is integration and bringing these different services together without diluting their different needs, processes, and regulatory environments. Quotient Sciences has a long track record of doing this successfully, and ultimately this comes down to our people and their willingness to collaborate and think differently. Both our leadership team and our project teams are integrated, and our cross-functional groups use their expertise to help customers break down traditional industry silos and bridge those gaps to streamline processes.
Do you see others trying to adopt a similar offering to compete with Quotient Sciences?
We do see others trying to adopt Quotient Sciences' approach, but we see this as healthy competition. As an organization, we've been doing Translational Pharmaceutics for over 15 years. We know it's not all quantitative: for this approach to be successful, there are a lot of processes and behaviors to implement, which takes time. There is also a learning curve of adapting and responding to challenges, which takes time to overcome.
If you could go back and give your 25-year-old self some advice, what would you say?
As I look back, I would tell myself to be more confident, and don’t feel like you have to be something other than you are to compete. Grab every opportunity, and create your own opportunities, as it’s not always obvious. Also, don’t beat yourself up over failure because things won’t always go right. It’s a cliché, but you learn a lot from mistakes.