In this week’s blog, we’d like to introduce you to Jo Pisani. She has been a partner at PwC, where she lead the UK Pharmaceuticals and Lifesciences business. Jo is one of our two newly appointed Trustees! 

Hi Jo, what made you decide to become a trustee?

I retired from my role as PwC’s UK lead for pharmaceuticals and life sciences in 2019 and wanted to share my passion for life sciences and apply my professional skills to benefit patients more directly.  I have a particular interest in rare diseases and am a trustee and patient of LAM Action, supporting women living with an ultra-rare lung condition.  I see first-hand the difference that a well organised patient group can make in supporting patients and furthering research.  Findacure has a unique role supporting UK patient groups with disease awareness and fund raising as well as providing expertise in drug repurposing.

How do you think you can help the charity moving forward? 

I have a broad network in UK Lifesciences with companies, academia and government and hope to help raise the profile of Findacure amongst key partners. I have worked with companies for several years on growth strategies and can apply my skills to help Findacure as it evolves.

Why do you think rare diseases are so important?

There are 7000 known rare diseases for which only 400 have licensed treatments so the unmet need is huge.  Technology advances in genomics, data science and gene therapy have accelerated our ability to diagnose and treat rare diseases with significant benefit to patients and their families as well as broader health and economic benefits.

 

What do you think makes Findacure special?

Findacure brings the rare disease community together, empowering patient associations through providing tools and training to make them more effective.  The charity also helps directly by support drug repurposing whereby established treatments for other conditions can be licensed for rare diseases. The Findacure management team and board possess the broad range of skills required to help the rare disease community to be more effective.

 

What would you say is your greatest achievement in your professional life to date?

Building the pharma and life sciences team at PwC.  We have attracted and great team of young professionals keen to support all players in life sciences with the aim of improving the lives of patients worldwide.

 

You are hugely experienced in the life sciences sector.

Given that what changes do you foresee in the life sciences sector in the next five years that could benefit rare disease patients?

The rise in technology – the ever decreasing costs of genome sequencing will enable more rapid diagnosis of rare diseases caused by genetic defects, the increased use of patient data and data science will help reduce the length of time for diagnosis, provide personalised treatments and can improve the effectiveness of R&D and finally the increased use of cell and gene therapy can provide potentially curative treatments for rare diseases

Increased patient voice – social media has enabled rare disease communities to increase their reach across the globe and strengthen their voice – critical when lobbying policy makers to increase investment in R&D and in access to medicines

 

Do you have any advice for a young woman looking to start a career in the life sciences?

Be curious –  it is such a fast moving sector with amazing scientific breakthroughs, evolving healthcare policies, new startup companies and lots of mergers and acquisitions – having the curiosity to follow developments will help you understand the trends and opportunities in the sector.

Network – Life sciences is a broad community of industry, academia, healthcare, investors and patients.  People tend to change roles and companies frequently too and it is key to build relationships and track people as they move.  LinkedIn is a great tool to do this.  Also use your network for coaching, I find people in Lifesciences are very happy to provide their view and help when they can.

Be Authentic – too often I find people force fit themselves into the image they feel is expected of them in an organisation.  Yes, you do need to align somewhat to the organisational culture but remember to be true to yourself too, it can be exhausting to portray an image that is simply not you and you can never be passionate about something unless you believe in it yourself