Sir Tom McKillop
Sir Tom McKillop, 60, may have been chief executive of AstraZeneca for the past four years but the Glasgow-born head of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical group claims he is still happiest working in the lab. "This is where I enjoy spending my time," he says.
And that is where it all began. After completing a PhD in chemistry and post-doctoral research, he started his career in the laboratories of ICI.
Today at AstraZeneca he is grappling with sales that have slipped from £12bn in 2000 to £11bn last year. But he remains optimistic: "No company I know of has faced losing half its sales in a relatively short period, and come through it the way we have."
The main problem for the European pharmaceutical industry, he believes, is government price restrictions. "Ten years ago, the European market for pharmaceuticals was bigger than the US one. That has completely changed now. If you look at the products introduced in the last four years in the world, you find that 70 per cent of the sales are in the US. Something like 20 per cent are in Europe."
Nevertheless, he says the industry is challenging and rewarding, with a huge range of career opportunities to make an impact on world health.
At AstraZeneca, the focus is on drugs for chronic ageing diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. "The cost of treating an ageing population, if we have to nurse them or have them in hospital, is horrendous."
In March, Dr Olivier Brandicourt, 47, was appointed managing director for Pfizer in the UK and Ireland. He has worked at Pfizer and Warner-Lambert, which merged in 2000, for 13 years. Before joining the pharmaceutical sector he was in academia, researching treatments for malaria and Aids.
"I believe passionately in this industry's mission: to discover and market medicines to fulfil patients' needs."
Co-founder and chief executive Dr Paul Drayson, 43, built PowderJect Pharmaceuticals from a technology start-up into one of the world's major independent vaccine companies.
"Bio-pharmaceuticals is the growth industry of the 21st century, exploiting the genetics revolution to tackle mass killers such as infectious disease and cancer."
Dr Peter Fellner, 59, oversaw the development of Celltech, of which he is chairman, from a small research and development company to one of Europe's largest biotech operators, with R&D focusing on immune disorders and cancer. He is also chairman of bio-tech firms Vernalis, Astex and Ionix.
"People comfortable with rapid change are often well suited to careers within this industry."
Dr Peter Goodfellow, 52, is senior vice-president of discovery research at GlaxoSmithKline. Joining the pharma-ceutical industry in 1996, he played a key role in the discovery of the gene that determines whether a mammalian embryo develops as a male or female.
"For a career in pharmaceutical research - converting biological and chemical knowledge into new drugs - ensure you have a strong background in computational science."
Professor Trevor Jones, 61, is director-general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), representing its views to politicians, academia and the media. Deputy chairman of King's College Council, University of London, he was made a CBE in the New Year honours list.
"Our pharmaceutical industry is one of this nation's great success stories, both in economic terms and in bringing benefit to patients' lives worldwide."
Dr Melanie Lee, 44, is in charge of a £100m R&D budget at Celltech and is also chairman of Cancer Research Technology, an organisation that helps new scientific developments to become commercially viable.
"Be realistic about your own organisational strengths, don't be afraid to collaborate with others, and know when it's time to move on."
As medical director of Pfizer UK, Dr Kate Lloyd, 55, is responsible for ensuring that her company's activities are based on solid scientific data and carried out within both the law and the ABPI code of practice, while conforming to medical ethics.
"Gertrude Elion [a Nobel Prize winner] is my guide. She said: 'It is amazing what you can achieve if you don't mind who gets the credit.'"
Adrian Towse is director of the Office of Health Economics, a think-tank funded by the pharmaceutical industry. A visiting professor at York University, he is also non-executive director of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, where he chairs the governance and audit committees.
"I predict that, in two years, the NHS will have patient-centred measures to record improvements in health, access and amenity."
Dr Frank Wells, 67, has been a GP, a British Medical Association official and medical director of the ABPI. He led a national ban on amphetamines prescription and founded the ethical issues committee of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine. Committed to fighting research fraud, he co-founded the MedicoLegal Investigations body.
"Be committed to the highest standards of ethical integrity and you will never go far wrong."
Will you work for medicinal purposes?
* Drugs companies frequently offer opportunities for work experience, but many careers can lead to the industry.
* Any potential medicine requires in-depth research and testing for safety and effectiveness. This involves chemists, pharmacologists, toxicologists, doctors, clinical trial associates and data managers.
* Another way into the sector is to work on the production of medicines; strict quality and safety standards require engineers, chemists and logistics experts.
* The industry directly employs around 65,000 people in the UK, with another 250,000 in related sectors.
* In the UK alone, nearly £9m per day is spent researching and developing new or improved treatments for diseases including cancer, arthritis and mental illness.
By Kate Hilpern with information provided by the ABPI.Reuse content