‘All Roads Lead to and from Rome’ or Better Yet, Health for All!
By Donna Libretti Cooke, Director, Contracting & Budgeting, Clinical Development Operations (CDO), Bayer
I’m a firm believer in fate and that everything happens for a reason. But if you had told me 10 years ago that my experience in Rome, Italy would one day coincide with my work today within Bayer Pharma Clinical Development Operations (CDO), I would have said ‘come è possibile’?!
When I moved to Rome with my family in 2009, I took a hiatus from my pharma work. I was lucky to land a public affairs job advancing United States policy efforts to promote sustainable development and combat world hunger. I became a State Department employee, working for the United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN) World Food Agencies in Rome — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The work uncovered a passion in me to help those in need. Being a part of something big that could impact many lives was gratifying. So, it was a poignant moment when I left Rome in 2013 and this very rewarding work.
A step back to move forward
Then, upon returning to the U.S., I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. For the next two years, I focused on getting better. Thankfully I found my way back to better health and in 2015, was fortunate to join Bayer as an externally embedded staff member within CDO under Pharma’s Research & Development (R&D). I thrived in this role and in 2018, even advanced into a new, permanent global role directly for Bayer. For six years now, it has been exciting to work with CDO colleagues, focusing on operational excellence to develop life-saving medicines. It is great to be part of something big again!
A long way from Rome
Flash forward to 2019 in Hollywood, Florida. I would never have imagined the humanitarian public policy work I did for the Rome USUN Mission would cross paths with clinical operations at Bayer.
I was attending one of the last sessions of the day at the Society for Clinical Research Sites (SCRS) conference. Greg Folz was giving an update on his Kits4Life project, which won the SCRS Site Tank award a few years before. Greg’s idea was a platform for clinical trial sites to donate unused lab kits and clinical supplies for humanitarian aid. My ears perked up, taking me back to my time in Rome. While Greg discussed Kits4Life, I turned and looked at Mark Ryan, Head of Site Management for The Americas, and asked, “Are we [Bayer] doing this?” Mark and I said in unison, “We should be doing this!” I quickly jumped on this chance and told Mark, “I’ll help! What do you need?”
And from there, the Kits4Life concept came to Bayer.
A do-good cause catches fire
They say laughter is contagious, and so is Kits4Life! The excitement from that day in Hollywood, Florida has gained momentum ever since. Through Mark’s leadership, Kits4Life became a major initiative at Bayer and I became the project lead. Bayer also became a member of the Kits4Life Advisory Council. It’s here that I jumped in to give back more as the Chair of the
Site/Pharma On-Boarding Kits4Life Workstream with other Advisory Council members. I’ve been exposed to a new industry of accredited Medical Surplus Recovery Organizations (MSROs) that recover, redistribute and use high-quality medical supplies to improve the health of those in need with support from the MedSurplus Alliance. It’s been incredible to work with an amazing group of colleagues. Their passion and dedication have reinvigorated me, as I’m now contributing to a humanitarian cause through my clinical operations work. Who knew that Roman road would be so fateful?
We have successfully implemented Kits4Life into Bayer CDO in just nine months. There’s no question the timely and enthusiastic support from across Bayer fueled our success in the U.S. and it continues to spread. We are looking to hit more countries this year and pull in bulk supplies from across our entire R&D group.
Pioneering efforts in the industry
Less than two years after hearing about Kits4Life, Bayer has an active partnership with the Advisory Council and MedSurplus Alliance, a standards and accreditation organization. Our partnership allows for the extended life of useful clinical trial supplies for communities in need, and low and middle-income countries. But we can’t stop there.
This one small step at Bayer is just the start of a larger paradigm shift in the industry. We believe this should become the normal way of conducting clinical trials for all sponsors. So now we are driving awareness and asking others to join.
Learn more by attending Bayer Pharma’s LinkedIn Live Event. Click here
Bayer doesn’t just give jobs, we give life fulfillment
I’m so grateful for Bayer’s leadership in trusting me to drive forth this sustainable project that aligns so well with Bayer’s ‘Health for All’ vision. This cause truly has ignited a fervent atmosphere. Everyone who hears about Kits4Life wants to touch it, feel it, be a part of it!
Join us, spread the word, and let this ‘Roman’ road lead us to ‘Health for All.’