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What do you get from 250 scientists, 60 mentors, 3 countries, 160 presentations and 200 publications over 10 years? Cutting-edge science to tackle the world’s most pressing diseases.

Since we established Pfizer’s Worldwide Research, Development and Medical (WRDM) postdoctoral training program in 2009, our postdocs have demonstrated the value of creativity, expertise and innovative thinking while pushing the needle for scientific innovation. Even in scenarios where hypotheses fail and unexpected outcomes occur, our highly talented postdoc team keeps pushing forward in the search for potential therapies to change patients’ lives.

Read on to learn more about Pfizer’s postdoc program from Sharon Campbell, one of our current  postdoctoral research fellows. Find out what projects are keeping Sharon busy, the coolest part about working in a science-driven and drug discovery culture, and her advice for the next generation of young scientists!

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What made you interested in science and medicine?

I grew up in rural Ireland, and from a young age I was fascinated by the workings of the natural world near and around my home. When I got a little older, a family member was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and my early childhood fascination with nature’s processes developed into a need to understand the immune system and why it malfunctions. My family member’s diagnosis inspired me to pursue my interest in science, so I studied Immunology at Trinity College Dublin.

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What attracted you to Pfizer?

During my time at Trinity College, my class visited Pfizer’s Grange Castle site and heard Dr. Orla Cunningham speak about the BioMedicine Design team’s work in generating antibody-based therapeutics. This inspired me to pursue a PhD with the goal of eventually working in an environment in which scientific knowledge is directly applied to drug-development.

While finishing up my PhD, I applied for a postdoc position with the Pfizer BioMedicine Design group in Dublin and was delighted to have the opportunity to transition into Pfizer and work in drug-development so early in my career.

What makes Pfizer’s postdoc program unique?

Pfizer’s postdoc program has incredible internal resources, and I have found that Pfizer colleagues are always willing and excited to contribute to the postdoc experience. For example, Pfizer’s program allowed me to collaborate with my Boston-based colleagues to develop a new data analysis pipeline.  

What types of projects are you currently working on?

As part of the BioMedicine Design group in Dublin, I help discover and develop antibody-based therapeutics. My current project focuses on improving our in vitro methods of antibody discovery, so that we can identify molecules more likely to progress through the discovery pipeline.

What scientific discovery do you find the most impressive?

I find both variolation and vaccination very fascinating, as they are the first examples of manipulation of the immune system to improve human health.

Variolation was first carried out in the late 1500s-early 1600s to protect against smallpox, and later evolved into vaccination in the late 1700s when Edward Jenner discovered the ability of cowpox infection to fight smallpox. The invention of vaccination eventually led to the World Health Organization declaring the eradication of smallpox in 1980. An extremely impressive feat!

What’s the coolest part of your job?

Without a doubt, the coolest past of my job is being involved in the discovery and development of drugs that have the potential to reach patients and impact their quality of life. 

What scientific advancement are you most impressed by?

I deeply admire the exponential improvements in the speed and quality at which we can obtain sequence information. It took 13 years and about $3 billion to sequence the first human genome, and today we can sequence a genome in one to two days for a fraction of the price. The impact of such sequence data on the understanding of human health and drug discovery is monumental!

What advice would you give to the next generation of scientists?

I believe that the next revolution of scientific advancements will come from mining large datasets. I encourage the next generation of scientists to think about this and how the field of bioinformatics can potentially advance innovation and understanding in their own interest areas.