Although some of today’s most talented scientists harbored life-long goals of becoming researchers, most people found their paths overtime. Steve Yancey falls into that second group of people. Fond of biology, his original aspiration was medical or veterinary school, but during his graduate-level laboratory classes, he found the academic setting to be too limiting. Instead, he tried the private sector for a chance to discover more diversity in his work.
Eventually, this led to a career in drug development, based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, where Yancey has been for 30 years. Today, he is vice president and medicine development leader at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), working to advance solutions for patients with respiratory conditions, such as severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
During his career, Yancey was involved in several major breakthroughs in respiratory medicine, including leading the team that recently developed GSK’s first biologic respiratory medicine to treat severe asthma. Across the world, more than 300 million people struggle with asthma, and five to 10 percent of this group faces severe asthma. Yancey and his team work to address the needs of these patients, who find that their daily activities can be disrupted at any time from a severe attack.
In today’s new era of medicine, biologics are changing the way we are able to treat severe asthma and its disrupting symptoms. These medications, while not a cure, can be added to standard asthma medication to help provide relief to patients whose current treatment is not enough to manage their condition.
“Biologics are truly transformational drugs,” says Yancey. “I believe they are the way of the future in personalized medicine.”
Challenges and Collaboration
Drug development is extremely challenging, but Yancey understands this is the nature of the industry and recognizes that failure is just part of the process. Indeed, it took 15 years and 3,000 scientists to help develop GSK’s asthma biologic treatment, and Yancey and his team faced numerous obstacles in the process.
“What keeps me motivated is the understanding that we make a difference in what we do,” says Yancey. “We’re very much on the cutting-edge of scientific research. Every day, I do what I can to deliver solutions that help make patients’ lives better.”
“I want patients to know that they are not forgotten. We are working on ways to improve their everyday experience, and I’m lucky to be joined by thousands of researchers with the same, like-minded goal.”
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