Luke Cunliffe

Luke Cunliffe

Luke Cunliffe studied BSc Pharmacology and completed an industrial work placement at Pfzier. Upon graduating he went on to work for Pfizer in Regulatory Affairs. Now as a Clinical Scientist he was recently worked on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine programme.

What is your current job?

I am a Clinical Scientist in Vaccine Clinical Research & Development at Pfizer. The Clinical Scientist is a key member of the study team and partners closely with MD clinicians and clinical operations team members, applying technical and scientific expertise to support the development and execution of clinical trials. Typical CS activities include but are not limited to protocol authoring and informed consent document development, safety and quality data review, patient narratives and clinical study report development.

What has it been like to work on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine programme?

I was involved in analysing the large volumes of data gathered from the participants enrolled on the COVID-19 clinical trial programme. I was assigned to many trial sites across the world and received the data as the individuals underwent numerous tests and observations, as per the study protocol. In fact, I was privileged to be one of the first people in the world to see that data from early vaccination trials in the U.S.

I am incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to work on the COVID-19 vaccine programme. Hearing that the Pfizer vaccine was the first to receive temporary use authorisation was a very exciting moment, a definite career highlight. Seeing the name of the company you work for all over the news was great and it was amazing to help bring new positivity and hope to so many people, close family and friends included. However, the trial is ongoing, so I was aware that the work has to continue. The temporary authorisation is a great step, but it is not the end of the journey for the scientists at Pfizer

How did your industrial work placement help your career prospects?

I undertook an undergraduate placement with Pfizer in 2014-15 whilst studying for a Pharmacology degree at the University of Leeds. Following graduation, I returned to Pfizer, initially in Regulatory Affairs, and have not looked back. A highlight of my time in Regulatory Affairs was a 7-month secondment to Chennai, India. I helped to recruit, train and manage a team of data management specialists and coordinated the successful implementation of a new ‘Single Channel Communication’ (SCC) model across Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe. 

What has your graduate career been like?

Around August 2019 I joined Vaccine Clinical Research & Development as a Clinical Scientist. Approximately 6 months after joining VCRD, Pfizer announced its 5-point plan to tackle COVID-19 and the vaccine programme began. I was involved in analysing the large volumes of data gathered from the participants enrolled on the COVID-19 clinical trial programme. I am assigned to many trial sites across the world and receive the data as the individuals undergo numerous tests and observations, as per the study protocol.

I am passionate about public health. During my secondment in India (2018-19) I saw the growing disparities between rich and poor communities. I was able to witness first-hand how income inequality or disparity between the different socioeconomic classes is associated with worse health outcomes. I feel proud to work at Pfizer in clinical research which allows me to apply scientific expertise to make important contributions in bringing new vaccines to the public, to improve and protect public health globally.

What experiences at Leeds do you think particularly helped with your career?

I left Leeds with a broad understanding of the biomedical science disciplines as well as specialised knowledge on how drugs work in the body. Further, the industrial placement year provided clarity on what I wanted to do after graduating and allowed me to develop and refine my soft skill profile. During my placement at Pfizer I was part of a diverse Regulatory Affairs team where I learned critical business skills, such as communication, leadership and teamwork.

What opportunities do you think there are in the industry?

There many exciting ways science and scientific principles can be applied, outside of lab-based roles typically associated with a life sciences degree. The opportunities available for young, enthusiastic life scientists with a ‘can do’ attitude are vast. I have been amazed at the number of doors my life sciences degree from Leeds continues to open. Since graduating in 2016, I have travelled to several great cities all over the world and work closely with very talented and passionate individuals who are industry-leading in their respective fields every day.