Combating a global pandemic with human ingenuity and innovation

The personal stories that contributed to life-saving vaccines in record time.

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United by a common cause, a global team of hg体育 experts partnered with pharmaceutical companies to fight COVID-19. The reward for their ingenuity: Life-saving vaccines brought to market in record time.

As the pandemic continues, one thing has become clear: The path to beating COVID-19 is through responsiveness, collaboration and innovation. This especially rings true in the work of the many hg体育 colleagues around the world who partnered with customers developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

From developing medical dashboards and automated analyses to conducting in-depth trademark research, hg体育 experts harnessed their human ingenuity and pushed boundaries to develop the best solutions. Here are a few of their inspiring stories.

Oliver’s journey:
The right skills at the right time

Oliver Blandy, M.SC

Principal Epidemiologist
London, UK

Senior epidemiologist and previous research assistant for Imperial College London. Oliver has led several studies investigating healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance.

As the pandemic tore across the world, vaccine developers worked furiously to accelerate R&D and commercialization processes. Principal epidemiologist Oliver Blandy knew he had the expertise and access to the right data to help these clients fight COVID-19.

In the spring of 2020, as the COVID-19 global pandemic continued to rage, Oliver Blandy hunkered down in London. As a principal epidemiologist at hg体育, he hoped he would be tasked with putting his skills to work fighting the virus.

Oliver soon got his wish. Vaccine and treatment developers were racing against time, pushing the envelope of R&D and commercialization processes, which normally can take many years, to bring innovative products to market within months.

He was embedded into a client team that was working on some promising solutions for COVID-19 treatment and prevention. As the resident epidemiologist, Oliver sat in on daily meetings, fielding vitally important questions about the makeup of patient populations, infection forecasts and patient safety.

“We have the tech and the data capabilities to bring all of the different pieces of the puzzle together.”

Oliver worked daily to curate and analyze datapoints that powered a dynamic COVID dashboard. This dashboard helped vaccine developers quickly answer vitally important patient questions that were essential in safely bringing a vaccine to market.

Oliver and a global team of epidemiologists dove right into the project, curating reliable public and commercial data sources and conducting a massive review of the relevant medical literature.

Within a year they had identified 22,000 papers through their search string. The team then did a title abstract review and reviewed about 2,500 papers. From the thousand papers they found useful, they included 53,500 data points.

The team piped those data points into a bespoke, dynamic COVID data dashboard to enable different teams within the client company to view angles and vectors relevant to their work.

This dashboard helped vaccine developers quickly answer vitally important patient questions that were essential in safely bringing a vaccine to market.

Explore the COVID-19 dashboard

Shyama’s journey:
Making sense of information overload

Shyama Ghosh, Ph.D.

Senior Science Editor
Antwerp, Belgium

A trained parasitologist passionate about Life Sciences and raising awareness of rare diseases. Shyama’s research has enabled scientific collaborations around the world.

As part of a global team, Senior Science Editor Shyama Ghosh was enlisted to help pharma companies understand the emerging disease landscape. A time-sensitive and high-stakes project, she was completely dedicated to curating and coding COVID-19 data.

As the pandemic progressed, pharmaceutical companies were met with an overwhelming amount of information surrounding COVID-19.

It was clear that the unique combination of data, technology and expertise at hg体育 could help customers make sense of the data in order to accelerate the development of the vaccine.

Over the summer of 2020, Shyama, who helps maintain the hg体育 Incidence and Prevalence Database, and others were enlisted to help pharmaceutical companies understand the emerging disease landscape. 

This global team of epidemiologists, spread across India, Europe and the U.S. launched into a three-month, round-the-clock sprint of data curation, collecting and coding literature, epidemiological surveillance data and real-world data.

“Everything was pretty new, and there were a lot of hypotheses out there. We were actually looking at the data and helping to clarify things.”

Faced with an overwhelming amount of information, Shyama and her team worked to identify the critical data needed for the COVID-19 dashboard. Thanks to her work, customers had what they needed to make informed decisions on how to move forward.

Shyama and her colleagues were tasked with taming a flood of incoming data on COVID-19, coding data from medical journals and other publications and processing it into a medical dashboard that could be used by teams developing vaccines and treatments for the disease.  

The team also focused on special populations of interest: patients with autoimmune diseases or co-infected with other viruses, those with asthma or COPD, pregnant women and older patients. The collected data depicted COVID-19 transmission from Asia to Europe and the U.S., and morbidity and mortality figures across different geographies. It also delineated the effects of age, race, and ethnicity on infection rate, COVID-19 presenting symptoms and the role of biomarkers.

This work allowed vaccine manufacturers to turn a tremendous volume of information into precise, actionable insights that helped them make informed decisions on how to move the vaccine forward.

For Shyama, contributing to a critical medical solution was gratifying, but so was the collaboration and trust built among her team as they worked on this once-in-a-lifetime project.

The data behind our solutions

Nishant's journey:
Using data and tech to stay a step ahead

Nishant Kumar, M.P.H

Head of Epidemiology
London, UK

Epidemiologist with expertise in oncology and CNS diseases. Nishant’s key interests in oncology are modeling disease progression and drug-treatable incident and prevalent populations.

With so many unknowns surrounding COVID-19, pharma and healthcare companies needed a better way to understand the future disease landscape. Nishant and fellow epidemiologists created a COVID-19 forecasting tool to help customers better plan and make informed decisions.

As pharmaceutical companies race to provide essential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 to the global population, they also face a need to understand what the disease landscape is going to look like in six weeks, or six months or a year. So much is still unknown and new information and data become available nearly daily.

Forecasting COVID-19 is no easy feat. The nature of the virus and the lack of testing, particularly in the beginning of the pandemic, make it difficult to calculate the total patient population. Add to this the uncertainty in nonpharmaceutical interventions and the timing and efficacy of different treatments entering the market, and the picture becomes even less clear.

Working alongside fellow epidemiologists Oliver Blandy and Alexandre Vo Dupuy, Nishant developed a short-term COVID-19 forecasting tool that would help pharma companies better plan and make informed decisions.

“In order for vaccines to be able to reach patients, there is an incredible amount of evidence and analysis that pharmaceutical companies need to generate. That’s where we come in.”

Using his ingenuity, Nishant was able to develop an iterative model that could help customers better forecast COVID-19 trends and gain insights into patient populations that would not have been possible before.

Faced with the daunting challenge of solving a global need, Nishant taught himself Python and SQL. He used this knowledge to build an iterative SEIR (susceptible, exposed, infectious, recovered) model that could run thousands of simulations with plausible parameter ranges set out by the current literature and benchmarked using publicly available studies, disease registries, and in-house real-world data.

Essential to the success of the tool is the data that feeds into it. Real-world data, which is updated weekly, has been invaluable in assessing the impact of the pandemic as it unfolds. It allows customers to adapt forecasts and gain valuable insights into patient populations that would not be possible before.

The global forecasting tool covers 45 countries and has been critical in helping pharmaceutical clients stay ahead of a fast-changing pandemic and accelerate desperately needed products to market. It even successfully predicted the second wave of COVID-19 in the U.K. to the week!

Access COVID-19 forecaster

Xavi’s journey:
Joining the global fight against
COVID-19

Xavi Moreno

Python Developer
Barcelona, Spain

As part of the hg体育 consulting team, Xavi’s work helps to infuse technology capabilities into services that help clients scale and grow their work.

Well into the pandemic, Xavi Moreno made the decision to join hg体育. He believed in hg体育’s vision and felt he would get the opportunity to use his technology skillset to make a difference in the pandemic.

In the early summer of 2020, Xavi made the decision to join hg体育—just as a second wave of COVID-19 cases was hitting in much of Europe and the United States.

Xavi’s fluency with Python was put straight to work fine-tuning a backend tool that a client was using to power automated testing across an array of portfolios, including products being tested against COVID-19.

Working in scrum methodology-style agile sprints, Xavi and his colleagues, most of whom are based in the U.S., spent six months divided into two-week programming marathons, each punctuated by iterative sprint ceremonies where they reported their progress and received client feedback.

“Me and my team make everything automated and linked so customers could run their processes and gather the data that they wanted to keep developing the vaccine.”

As part of the hg体育 consulting services team, Xavi was able to work on client projects directly related to COVID-19 treatments. His work helped clients automate processes and accelerate the pace of drug development.

It wasn’t until Xavi was well embedded into the work that it gradually dawned on him that the urgency of the project was tied to the pandemic response. One day, he woke up and read on Twitter that the client was releasing a COVID-19 solution, and he realized that he had a hand in that.

For Xavi, what excites him the most about this work is that the type of job is always different. In software engineering or data science, the tools might be the same, but the domain is always changing. Working alongside customers developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments gave Xavi the opportunity to build his knowledge about drug discoveries and clinical trials.

With this knowledge and an expert technology skillset, Xavi and the hg体育 consulting services team were able to help accelerate drug development as life science companies raced against the clock to bring vaccines and treatments to the global population.

Explore biopharma solutions

Danielle's story:
The expertise to turn a vaccine into a brand

Danielle Waterman

Senior Trademark Quality Specialist
Boston, Massachusetts

An expert trademark quality specialist with over 20 years of experience in identifying strong brand names for pharma companies.

The brand name chosen for a vaccine or drug is more than a commercial matter. It’s also important for patient safety. Danielle Waterman and other trademark analysts vet potential names to help clients avoid potentially hazardous prescribing errors.

Every vaccine and drug goes to market under a distinct brand name, and the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are no different.

The pharmaceutical naming process is extremely complex. A pharma company may consider a dozen or more names in search of one that’s distinctive as well as compelling. It can be a tricky business, and an important one not just for commercial reasons, but also for patient safety.  

Danielle’s group helps to vet potential names for clients across a range of industries, but pharmaceuticals require some special considerations. Ultimately, their goal is to make sure they are uncovering any similar names that might lead to prescription errors, because otherwise, somebody could get the wrong medicine.

When vetting names, Danielle considers how unique the name is and how it’s going to look written out by hand. Similar-sounding brand names, too, can cause confusion. This can lead to potentially hazardous prescribing or dispensing errors. To rule out these dangers, Danielle’s team combs through thousands of trademarks to flag potential conflicts.

“Every time I see one of the trademarks that I worked on being offered to the consumer it’s exciting, especially with the vaccines.”

Just months into the pandemic, Danielle started getting trademark searches for possible COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The team of experienced trademark analysts quickly jumped in to support. Their work helped customers bring distinctive brands to market.

When COVID-19 began to break out in early 2020, Danielle’s team saw a big shift in the kinds of asks coming their way, as focus shifted to cleaning and antibacterial products, charitable fundraising efforts and remote technologies.

It was a hopeful indication when, in the summer of 2020, still just months into the pandemic, her team started getting trademark searches for possible COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

The team of trademark analysts, many who have been doing this work for over 20 years, are well versed in what to look for and were ready to jump in to support pharma customers. They dedicated themselves to the project, combing through thousands of trademarks to flag potential conflicts.

Given that the team typically fields search requests for prescription drugs and vaccines a year-and-a-half to two years before they reach patients, the speed with which these medicines moved through the Emergency Use Authorization process was truly surprising and inspiring.

Explore COVID-19 vaccines

“There was definitely a belief that we were able to come up with a solution that would enable researchers, pharma companies and key decision makers to tackle this pandemic.” – Oliver Blandy

More than a year into the global pandemic, it sometimes seems as if we are faced with more questions than answers. One thing is for certain: Success will depend on continued responsiveness, collaboration and innovation.

Innovation happens in response to a challenge, a gap, a need. Without question, COVID has accelerated the pressures and challenges felt in every corner of our lives. This has resulted in a faster pace of change, enabled by new ideas, new technology, faster innovation and a quicker speed to market.

This year, the world defied the odds with not just one COVID vaccine, but many. As the pandemic continues, hg体育 colleagues around the world remain committed to harnessing their human ingenuity, pushing boundaries and partnering with customers to advance innovation in hopes of a better future for all.

Explore more expert insights on the COVID-19 pandemic

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