Salim and his team at Astellas serve as the bridge between drug discovery and drug delivery. When a new drug is discovered in the lab, its benefits need to be validated in clinical testing before it can be delivered to patients. Salim’s job is to test the safety and benefits of those new drugs as they make their way from the laboratory to the hospitals, clinics and, ultimately, the patients who need them.
The Driving Force
Salim’s passion for science is what first motivated him to go into medicine. As he matured in his career, it became clear to him that he wanted to move beyond his work as a practicing physician and pursue a path that would allow him to have the greatest impact on the most people. “I started thinking in terms of the impact of the science and I wanted a bigger canvas to draw on,” says Salim, who has spent much of his career developing new medicines to help transplant recipients live longer and healthier lives.
“We used to focus on keeping patients alive during and after transplant. Now our focus is: how can we help ensure that patients thrive post-surgery?” explains Salim. “I think of our work as enriching humanity, on top of reducing the suffering of individual patients. An example I like to use is that a kidney transplant would have allowed Mozart to live 10 more years. So, you can imagine how much more music we would have had.”
Challenges, Chances and Looking Forward
“It’s important to realize that our job is to evaluate the therapeutic potential of these drugs. If we find that a potential drug is a failure, that conclusion is, in a way, a success.” Salim points out that his job is just as much about ensuring the safety of drugs as it is about facilitating the delivery of new, potentially helpful medicines.
Obstacles during development are ultimately opportunities to learn and, eventually, discover new drugs that will enhance the lives of patients. “Every success is followed by wanting to do more and to go to the next step,” says Salim. “We have seen how scientific innovation has contributed to our ability to control common ailments and infectious diseases. Now we have the luxury to focus on specific disease elements, and, eventually, we will get to a point where we have truly personalized medicine.” That, Salim says, is the most exciting part of the future of medicine.
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