For GlaxoSmithKline Taiwan (GSK) General Manager Mick Stanley, a company is only as successful and progressive as the people behind it. He cites the multinational pharmaceutical firm’s ability to balance performance with pursuing solutions that positivity impact patients and public health as one of the main reasons he’s stayed with them for the last 20 years.
A big part of GSK’s mission, says Stanley, is simply to allow employees to be themselves – regardless of ethnicity, background, gender, or sexual orientation – and to equip them with the tools and confidence to be the best they can be, both personally and professionally.
“When I think about the company’s core values, I think about respect, transparency, and always being patient-focused,” Stanley says. “In addition to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace, we also want to create a flexible working environment for our people to flourish, and where employees feel that they can balance their worktime and off-hours roles,” he adds.
And while the growth and well-being of GSK Taiwan’s 300 employees are among the company’s utmost priorities, its central objective is to provide patients with innovative treatments, notably in the areas of respiratory, HIV, immuno-inflammation, and oncology, and to improve their quality of life.
Over the past four decades, GSK has made significant strides in the treatment of HIV, a disease that has killed over 30 million people worldwide. Stanley notes that the advances made in this area have allowed HIV-positive people to live normal, healthy lives by taking only one pill per day and even more freedom in the future.
Although GSK’s product portfolio covers a wide range of disease areas, Stanley has focused much of his two decades at the company on the development of vaccines.
“Vaccines are, outside of clean drinking water, the most important invention of the past century,” he says. “And I enjoy applying my love of business and of creating successful plans and meeting the company’s financial objectives to doing something that is at its core noble and prevents diseases.”
Stanley observes that Taiwan has a very high rate of pediatric vaccination. However, he notes, there is still a lack of public health education and awareness as it relates to vaccinating the island’s adult population.
“With adults, there isn’t the same sense of urgency to vaccinate compared to infants,” Stanley observes. “But the reality is that there are nine million people here above the age of 50, and vaccines can play a big role in managing their health and the country’s budget.”
GSK is now bringing its extensive experience combatting infectious diseases to the fight against COVID-19. As the pandemic continues to spread in countries across the globe, with many experiencing a second wave of infections, the need to produce a universally available vaccine becomes ever more pressing. Yet making enough of the product to inoculate a majority of the world’s population in a short amount of time is a challenge that governments and industry the world over are now facing.
In order to overcome this difficulty, GSK is contributing its adjuvant technology to the vaccines being developed by its partners around the world. This technology, which involves a special component that can be added to a vaccine to boost the body’s immune response, can help reduce the amount of vaccine needed to get the same result and allow for more vaccine availability. The company aims to produce one billion vaccine adjuvant doses in 2021.
“This was the best choice for GSK in that it will give the world the best chance to have a lot of vaccine at scale,” he adds. “In the end, it’s not a race to win – to beat the competition – but to get something out there fast that’s safe and effective.”
In addition to its vaccine efforts, GSK is researching treatments for severe cases of COVID-19 or secondary complications, looking at the therapeutic efficacy of some existing products in its portfolio. One is a monoclonal antibody therapy which is currently undergoing a clinical trial to determine if it is effective in treating patients who are experiencing severe coronavirus-related pulmonary disease.
The company has also set aside special laboratory space to help with diagnostic testing in the UK and Belgium, providing a pressure relief valve for public health authorities in those countries who are struggling with limited laboratory capacity.
After experiencing Taiwan’s effective early handling of the pandemic within its borders, Stanley says he is optimistic about the government’s distribution and implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available. If it is successful in this effort, he notes, it’s example could serve as a blueprint for the rest of the world, and GSK could help in spreading the message.
“We can, from our position here, educate other countries on how to do it right,” he says.
“There will be other pandemics in the future – it’s going to happen. But what’s important is that we have the systems in place to shut them down quickly – to trace and contain them, develop a vaccine very fast, and end them.”