My GSK Experience – Progress Report 1

Now that I have been inducted “officially” through my company’s orientation program, I figured it’s a time to recap and write about what my coop involves. I’ll be writing periodically about my internship, reflecting how it changes my views on my future career goals, ect. Most of this is general information about my company GlaxoSmithKline and our current client for the project I am a part of, Dendreon which you can access via sites open to the public. You can probably find more information there as well if you are interested in what I have to say; the links will be listed at the bottom of this blog entry.

First, I’d like to give you some background information and fun facts about the ever growing and progressive GlaxoSmithKline. It is one of the largest research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare company in the world.

There are two major (and endearing) GSK mottos I took away from the New Hire Induction Program:

  1. Mission: to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer
  2. Initiative: Focus on the patient – to remember while we do our assays and tests in lab that it is important to do our best because these products reach people.

How you may of heard of GSK and not realized it is through some of our well known products including Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpastes, Alli for weight loss, and Nicorette/Niquitin for smoking control.

Just to give you an idea how difficult it is for a biopharm company to become well known to the public and be “successful” in the industry, here are some numbers & a timeline in the process of making a drug.

When you patent let’s say a medical drug you’ve developed, you have 20 years filed that you own that idea before anyone else can use it. Out of 20 years, 14 years are sent trying to develop, file, and launch your product.

So if you research 10,000 compounds for your target disease to treat,

About 100 will go into development and potential production.

From that about 10 products passed will be marketed to the consumers.

And out of that, the company may profit from 3 assets.

According to our R&D speaker, these statistics are very optimistic and even unrealistic in such a competitive market. We played a board game called “Breakthrough” to illustrate that it’s so easy to lose funding money and have products fail, starting where you began over and over again (kind of like Monopoly and just as much fun!)!

History for this company has dated as far back as the early 18th century. However, a few of GSK’s research & development (R&D) milestones & facts that are my favorite are:

  • The earliest GSK lab was actually built on a boat, floating on the Nile River in Sudan in 1901.
  • Isolated B12 (vitamin) and uncovered the structure of penicillin.
  • Nobel Prizes won include: beta-blockers (important for cardiology treatment studies) and progress in drug treatment.
  • Their oncology department is a stand alone group from GSK’s R&D, and GSK is a leader in new cancer treatment development.
Now, cancer treatment development is where my coop comes into frame. I am assigned to work with the Biopharmaceutical Technology (BPT) department on a project involving an alternative to chemotherapy for late stage prostate cancer patients. In a nutshell, when combined with the patient’s cells illict’s a response from the immune system. It has been called a “cancer treatment vaccine,” in the sense that while it cannot prevent prostate cancer, it can train cells to fight back against existing cancer growth. before you get on my case about being all snotty with a glamorous sounding job title, don’t be fooled! I don’t get to develop any of my own projects or infer conclusions in reports; as of right now I run assays to generate data needed on experiments designed by my supervisors that they need to write reports but have no time to do haha. I think they will be assigning me a computer data item to work on next week besides the usual lab stuffs.

That being said, I understand how typical science internships work by now. I won’t be saving lives or rescuing the world with a new found cure I conjured (yet anyway :D) during my stay. But I’m confident in saying that the work I do is important in the grand scheme of things. It has to be done, so therefore I was hired.  And unlike other coops, I am paid nicely and am exposed to daily life on a corporate level for a great company. I’m not pouring coffee for the higher ups in the business; I’m still in the lab or at the desk doing something productive.

Some more positives of the job thus far are that I’ve come at a very busy time. It’s really exciting to observe all the project troubleshooting and how to professionally compromise with our client. Not to mention the science that goes into making this product and how awesome it is that I am able to be so close to cancer treatment history in the making! And of course, to know that this team I am a part of is working hard to help cancer patients truly puts a smile on my face.

Anyways, I hope to update you guys soon on how my experience unfolds. Hope you enjoyed this mini progress report!



2 comments on “My GSK Experience – Progress Report 1

  1. improperintegirl says:

    I didn’t know GSK made those products.. the only pharmaceutical company I was familiar with was Pfizer from watching business news 😀

    It’s great to know you’re helping cure cancer! Even if you are just running tests 😀 I also find it cool to know that they isolated B12 because I take B12 supplements!

  2. […] In March 2011, I started my internship at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in the Biopharmaceutical Process Technology (BPT) department. I gave the basic information on the company and the project I was assigned to here in my first progress report: […]

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