The Remaking of “Making Medicines”
Roivant Social Ventures and the School partner to elevate student education and experience
Story by Brooks Dareff | Published July 18, 2023
How do you learn about the nuts, bolts, nuances, complexities, and challenges of the pharma industry—and how those challenges are surmounted—all gleaned from decades spent traveling the world, but without racking up hundreds of thousands of frequent flier miles?
If you were a student taking the Spring 2023 elective Making Medicines: The Process of Drug Development, you went to class (or Zoomed in) and engaged with the six-week course’s expert guest speakers.
“This course exceeded my expectations,” says Caroline Eason, PharmD candidate ’25. Like most students enrolled in the course, she took it in her second year. “The pre-readings helped provide background for class, yet the in-class material was fresh and interesting. Each class featured guest speakers who were CEOs, entrepreneurs, and pharmaceutical industry change-makers. Students were able, and encouraged, to actively engage with these experts.”
The course is taught by Scott Singleton, PhD, Associate Professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry (CBMC), and Lindsay Androski, founder, president, and CEO of Roivant Social Ventures (RSV), a public charity launched in 2020 by Roivant Sciences. Making Medicines is designed to teach PharmD students about the new drug approval process and key issues in drug discovery, pre-clinical testing, clinical trials, FDA approval, and global access to medicines.
Making Medicines was first launched in 2017 by retired professors Roy Hawke, PharmD, PhD, and Phil Smith, PhD. Scott worked for the first time as co-director with Phil in 2022. The 2023 course drew a combined 50 students for the two Spring blocks. “I’m confident that’s an all-time high and can be attributed to the opportunity that students were promised to interact with Lindsay and the guests she recruited,” Scott says. “In past versions, we used case studies that largely followed the drug development stages as covered in the Eli Lilly online course. In contrast, the 2023 cases focused more on applying data and insights gathered during drug development for post-regulatory activity. In this way, we exploited our guests’ unique experiences and insights to show students how what they were learning is connected to (or will be used for) the steps that follow those in the online course.”
Those experiences don’t follow—at every stage— “the model for the process,” Scott says. “I don’t believe any two drugs follow exactly the same pathway. We can kind of map this average, typical expectation for the path, but in reality no drug follows that path. There are different challenges and hurdles that come up.” Or, as Lindsay says, “you can follow a playbook, but things are going to go awry every day.”
The guest lecturers included:
- Bill Symonds, PharmD, former CEO of Enzyvant in Cary, and co-founder of both Pharmasset and Roivant Sciences
- Anuj Hasija, former VP of Global Marketing at Novartis Oncology
- John Cox,founder and former CEO of Bioverativ (now part of Sanofi)
- Dan Patterson, VP and head of CMC, Biologics & Gene Therapies at Roivant Sciences
- Clifford Samuel, former SVP of Access Operations & Emerging Markets at Gilead Sciences
- Pratik Shah, former CEO of Auspex (now part of Teva) and co-founder of Design Therapeutics
- Woody Sherman, founder and CEO of Psivant; and
- Jane Sohn, staff director of Nonprescription Drugs Pharmacology-Toxicology Staff, Office of Nonprescription Drugs, FDA
Lindsay, a noted expert herself in the creation, launch, and scaling of biotechs from years spent building and leading Roivant Sciences’ deal team, previously worked as a federal prosecutor and in private practice and holds JD and MBA degrees as well as two BS degrees (one in biology).
When Caroline Eason looked through the electives offered for the Spring semester, Making Medicines stood out. “I knew Dr. Singleton was an organized, intentional course director, and I heard that the Making Medicines course exposed you to many different roles a PharmD could have in the pharmaceutical industry setting. The industry-based roles discussed . . . were referred to as business-oriented; this solidified my decision to take the course, as I am interested in careers that incorporate business development and strategy, pharmacy practice advancement, and entrepreneurship.”
Guest lecturer Anuj Hasija, a chemical engineer by training, has seen how a PharmD education can set the stage for the kind of career Caroline might envision. “PharmDs can play many roles within a pharma company. I’ve worked with PharmDs that did everything from marketing to development and regulatory to manufacturing. It’s the ability to understand scientific concepts, problem-solving skills, and teamwork that set you up for success in these various roles. If you’re keen to keep learning and growing, a career in industry can take you in many unexpected directions.”
Bringing in industry experts to transform the course in 2023 was the brainchild of Lindsay, who began meeting at least a year and a half earlier with John Bamforth, Executive Director of the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, and Kelly Collins, Associate Dean for Advancement.
“What I had pitched to them was an idea of educating UNC students on actually doing drug development using real drugs that have been shelved by the companies that own the rights to them, but that had shown promise in patients up to the point where they were shelved. Then, using that [original Roivant business model] as a way to help train more diverse leaders in the pharma industry,” Lindsay recalls.
Lindsay engaged with the Eshelman School of Pharmacy because “it’s the top pharmacy school in the country” and was ideal as RSV’s first academic setting partnership. Lindsay describes the School leadership as “very innovative thinkers, ahead of the curve,” who are “eager to help their students on a career journey, even if it ends up in biopharma.”
Lindsay’s ultimate goal remains hands-on drug development opportunities for students. “The idea is you’re simultaneously advancing drugs that can help patients—so we’re looking at unmet needs, underserved patent populations—and at the same time . . . the students who are doing this, putting emphasis on women, people of color, are people you do not currently see represented sufficiently in the C-suite in our industry.” Lindsay holds “a firm belief that those two things [i.e. unmet medical needs and the lack of diversity in leadership] are related.”
Lindsay does not see “malice” in the industry, and emphasizes the natural tendency for people to “care about diseases and conditions that have affected the people they know and love.” As an example, she contrasts prostate cancer and lupus: “There’s a reason why prostate cancer has so many treatments . . . because a lot of white men get that . . . Lupus is an equally complex disease to cancer, but I think if a different patient population got it, as opposed to almost entirely women, and predominantly women of color, we would have seen much more progress in that disease state today.”
If Making Medicines is phase 1 in the diversity in leadership pipeline process, then the RSV-Roivant summer internships, filled by students who completed Making Medicines, are phase 2—and another course draw that Lindsay hopes to expand in 2024. Caroline is one of the four inaugural Diversity in Pharma Internship Program interns. “I would not have had the encouragement, or even the opportunity to work as a Global Access Fellow without taking Making Medicines,” she says. “The fellowship allows me to work with Med Aditus, a startup nonprofit seeking to transform the pharmaceutical ecosystem of Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Caroline’s biggest course takeaway? “You cannot expect to achieve your career goals based on hard work alone; opportunity and networking oftentimes are what elevate your career path. Esteemed Making Medicines guest speakers all had nonlinear career paths, with stops, bumps, and even U-turns. I will apply this course knowledge to my career—it will not go how I expect, it may have redirections and bumps in the road, but the destination down the road will be exactly right!”