Amy Raymond is anything but ordinary. Her passion for marine science, experiences in research, and perspectives make her particularly unique. In this Q&A we’ll get to know Amy not only as an industry expert, but also as a people person with interests beyond clinical research.
What’s the biggest challenge we face today in our industry?
Around 95% of rare diseases have no approved treatments. This factor alone motivates the rare patient community to get involved in clinical development. We then have to answer a lot of difficult questions: How do you connect patients with clinical trials if the standard of care has no approved treatments for them? How do we make trial participation an option for the majority of these disease patients?
Why did you become involved in clinical research?
For me, it started with a fascination with what's happening at the molecular and cellular level. None of that really matters so much outside of the context of how it affects human health. Once I got my feet firmly planted in biochemistry and the physiology, the next question was, “How do we change that for people who are suffering from these diseases?” After that, it was a very easy, natural decision. You do clinical research, and you do it with a team who shares your vision.
What has been the most important factor that has changed drug development?
The thing that's most exciting to me is all the new molecular biology tools we’ve developed and implemented. There are so many different kinds of gene therapies. It’s exciting to learn more about what's happening in our natural systems as well as the technologies working with those natural systems.
What is the biggest misconception people have about clinical trials?
One common misconception is that you wouldn't necessarily be safe, but that’s simply not the case. There's great research out of the oncology space that says people do better being part of trials than they would have without participating, even separate from how effective that molecule is. This is because they're getting much closer care and engagement with their clinic team.
Another misconception is that clinical trials aren’t a care option. Many people assume that trials are only for extreme, rare, and strange cases. I think it's about how many clinical research sites there are. Many clinics are not involved in clinical research because the majority of people outside of rare diseases are getting their care somewhere that doesn't do clinical research. Rare disease communities are much more aware of clinical research as an option, but can't necessarily access it because of the ways those studies have historically been designed. That is starting to change, and we want to continue that momentum.
What advice would you give to the next generation of researchers?
Come in with your understanding of how it works and your great ideas of how we can do it better. It’s very challenging, but even more so rewarding, to be able to change care for participants and future patients. My advice is—don’t stop. Make a difference. Be a bulldog.
How has clinical research affected your life personally?
It’s been very rewarding to have one foot in each side of the industry—the discovery versus development space. It's helped me have way more appreciation. I think most people don’t realize all the tireless work that goes into molecules that doesn't make it into the actual clinical trials. Having worked on both sides of the industry, I understand how precious they are when they do get into clinical trials—only ten percent of them make it through to the other side!
If you had to describe yourself in three words, which would you choose?
My very favorite uncle nicknamed me Bulldog and I love it. I also think I’m realistically optimistic and passionate.
If you think back, at what point could you have chosen a different career path and what would it have been?
I would absolutely be a translator. I know that doesn't sound obvious, but I love people. I love different cultures, and I love to help people understand each other better. In some ways, that's kind of what we're doing with sponsors. There's a lot of overlap.
What’s a fun fact about your childhood?
I grew up moving quite a bit. I'm not from a military family, but we were on that kind of schedule. I grew up living in the Southeast, the Northeast, Phoenix, Seattle, San Diego, and New York City. My childhood taught me appreciation for different cultures. It taught me to respect where you turn up, because it won't be exactly where you were before.
If you were to write a self-help book, what would the topic be?
Let’s just say the title would be, “How to Tap Into Your Inner Dork.”
What was the last trip you took and why?
My husband and I went to a little island with a one-room cabin in the woods. We went snorkeling all day, ate fresh fish, and got to just get away from everything. The community was very accepting of visitors and we were able to really immerse ourselves in the natural world. I loved it!
Scott Schliebner, Senior Vice President of the Center for Rare Diseases
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