Efua Edusei is a seasoned British and Ghanaian US-based biotech and healthcare innovation industry professional with over 10 years of experience leading growth and marketing strategy, business development, and partnerships that provide patients access to better healthcare options.
Efua Edusei is a highly regarded biotech and healthcare innovation professional with over 10 years of experience leading growth and marketing strategy, business development and partnerships that provide patients access to more innovative healthcare options.
Throughout her career, she has supported life science companies in marketing strategy, strategic planning, and business development, holding roles of increasing leadership responsibilities across award-winning start-ups such as mPharma and 54gene, and Biogen, a leading global biotech company.
Efua is a previous Board Director of ARA-W, where she personally assessed and selected almost fifteen young women among hundreds of applications from all over West Africa to participate in an intensive 10-week STEM scientific immersion internship program.
In this captivating career interview, Efua Edusei shares her career experiences in the life sciences industry as the importance of advocating for women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
We bring to readers excerpts of the interview….
What inspired you to pursue a career in the life sciences?
My inspiration to pursue science was rooted in a deep passion and curiosity for science which I decided to fearlessly pursue from a young age. One of my earliest memories as a child was playing with a chemistry laboratory kit for children, which I received as a gift from an uncle in the US, and I remember spending hours after school fascinated by the various experiments the kit had, which enabled me to explore this field further.
I excelled in school, especially in the sciences. Most importantly, I enjoyed it and was curious to understand the science of disease and how exactly drugs worked which led me to pursue Pharmacology at University College London. This is the same institution where groundbreaking discoveries such as the beta-blocker used to treat cardiovascular diseases was discovered, so enrolling at UCL was a dream come true.
What are some of the steps and decisions you took to follow your specific path in life sciences?
After studying pharmacology, I knew I wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry but not as a laboratory scientist. I was more intrigued by the commercial, access and policy side of the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, so I pursued an MSc in Biomedicine and Health Policy at the London School of Economics, which provided a gateway into this world.
I have also made a conscious effort to get as much global experience as possible by working in roles responsible for leading regional and international projects and not country-specific ones.
After about seven years of working in Europe, I decided to pursue an MBA at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, America’s oldest business school. America is one of the leaders in healthcare innovation globally, so I knew studying in the US would provide me with opportunities to make a difference in healthcare innovation globally, and I am grateful to have had the potential to do so and rise to the top of my field.
What has been some of the biggest impact of your work to date?
Earlier in my career, I worked in oncology and learned about the devastating effects of cancer on patients and their families. My work as an Oncology Analyst gave me the opportunity to interview and get to know experts in the field while also gaining exposure to ground-breaking therapies in oncology which enabled me to advise biopharma companies on their strategies.
After years of working in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, I pivoted to Africa, an important market for global health, where I led Business Development for mPharma, an award-winning start-up disrupting the pharmaceutical supply chain and making medicines more accessible and affordable for patients. In this role, I led engagement with providers, government officials and payors, and enabled hospitals and pharmacies who were drowning in debt to acquire medication for their chronic disease patients at a discount. Through these partnerships, some hospital pharmacies which were constantly out of stock with life saving medications were now able to provide patients with quality and affordable prices, sometimes at a 30-50% discount.
Currently, I work in the genomics field, an area that is poised to improve various aspects of healthcare and other industries like agriculture. With genomics, we can now decode the human genome and better understand the DNA and building blocks of humans and other microorganisms. Researchers have been able to understand the COVID-19 virus better by sequencing the DNA which accelerated the development of vaccines. As someone certain my calling is in healthcare, the opportunity to work in precision medicine and help drive the importance of comprehensive genomic profiling, a next-generation sequencing approach that can screen for cancer biomarkers, and also provide expectant mothers tests like NIPT, has been incredible and very rewarding. We are in the age of preventive medicine, and I am proud to be part of a team working to make this a reality for more patients.
You have had a very global career working in the life sciences industry across three continents, what are some of the key nuggets you have taken away from these experiences?
My career has taken me from London to Switzerland to Ghana, to Nigeria, and now the US. I’ve learnt to fully understand the various cultural dynamics in each region and understand the ways of working and not make assumptions. You can’t apply the European working style or more specifically, a British working style to working in Africa or vice versa. You have to be versatile without losing yourself.
Learning the various ecosystem strengths in different markets is also important as healthcare is very dynamic and increasingly becoming intersected with technology. Therefore, a good understanding of technology infrastructure capabilities and limitations in different markets is critical. Finally, a sound understanding of the different regulations and policies is key to building partnerships and driving innovation.
What are some of the steps we could all take to encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM?
I will not be where I am today if I had fallen victim to the mentality of STEM careers not being suitable for girls. Organizations such as the African Research Academies of Women (ARA-W), a non-profit organization, whose board I served on for many years aim to fix this problem by encouraging females to actively pursue internship placements with leading scientific research organizations such as the Noguchi Institute of Medical Research.
Organizations with a similar mission need support from corporations to raise awareness, organize programs for young women and place them in internship programs similar to ARA-W’s. Policy also plays a very important role – the more government initiatives that are in place to support women in STEM, the higher the chances are of creating sustainable programs that help to close the disparity gap. I aim to continue advocating for women in STEM because my entire career is a testimony to the change that can happen when a woman goes for it 100%.