Women in Science

Women in science: WuXi AppTec's Lan Li on her passion for researching unmet medical needs

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Wuxi AppTec
© Wuxi AppTec

Related tags unmet medical needs Wuxi apptec Pharmacology Drug discovery Medicine Women in Science

Vice president and global head of bioanalytical and central lab services, Lan Li has always found doctors fascinating. Their ability to save lives and give second chances set her on her career path, but it was recognizing there were still so many unmet medical needs that led her to research.

Read our interview with her to find out how she firmly believes in a work-life balance and how she manages to be successful as both a mother and scientist. 

When did you realize you were interested in science, as a young child, teen or older?

Both of my parents were medical school professors, and as such, they profoundly influenced my career choice. I have always found medical doctors fascinating because of their ability to save lives, give people a second chance at life, and significantly impact quality of life. In medical school, I learned that treatments for many diseases were yet to be discovered. I realized there were still so many unmet medical needs. That's when I decided to go into drug research. Rather than becoming a medical doctor and saving one patient at a time, I wanted to develop new drugs that could potentially save thousands of lives at a time.

Could you give us an overview of your work?

I am a vice president and the global head of bioanalytical services (BAS) and central lab services (CL) at WuXi AppTec, Laboratory Testing Division. I am responsible for managing BAS and CL operations and developing an open-access platform that brings customers comprehensive BAS and CL testing programs. WuXi AppTec has sites in New Jersey, USA, Shanghai, Suzhou, Chengdu and Quidong, China, and a big part of my job is to provide first-class services—from small molecules to biologics to new modalities and beyond—to customers wherever they are in the world.

Could you describe your personal journey bringing us to where you are now?

I am a medical doctor by training and have been passionate about developing drugs for unmet medical needs for my entire career. My research has led to more than 20 peer-reviewed publications in top industry and academic journals. I spent more than 20 years at Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc., where I began as a research scientist and ultimately became the head of bioanalytical research strategy and portfolio management. While there, I supported three therapeutics from research to market and played critical roles in gaining marketing approval and label expansion.

At WuXi AppTec, I am the global head of bioanalytical and central lab services, which allows more opportunities for drug discovery and development. Under my direction, WuXi AppTec’s global bioanalytical teams have delivered high-quality services and, in doing so, supported market authorization for more than 120 drugs. We empower our clients every day to achieve new heights in drug discovery and development.

What challenges did you face, as a woman or otherwise, along the way and what is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

I believe that women are strong; we can do anything we put our minds to. My biggest challenges are balancing my role as a mother and a scientist. The most valuable lesson I've learned over the years is how to prioritize my life. It's about doing the right thing at the right time, and whatever it is, doing it to the best of your ability. I am confident and content, even when life gets busy because I know that I am spending my time on what matters most, whether it's work or family.

What ignites your passion in your current role?

I believe in WuXi AppTec's vision that every drug can be made, and every disease can be treated. It's our corporate mantra, but it's also my personal belief. What ignites my passion is when my team successfully supports another drug for NDA/BLA approval. That means there will be another drug on the market that has the potential to make a difference in the lives of patients!

What is your current work ethos/style?

I'm a ‘work hard, play hard’ kind of person. I am passionate about what I do for a living, but I also enjoy life outside of work.

Could you share some advice for young women starting to develop an interest in science or wanting to pursue a career like yours?

My advice is to believe in yourself. Be persistent. Most importantly, be passionate about what you love to do and be sure to enjoy life. Science has the power to change lives, and it is wonderful to be part of that. You, too, hold the key to making a difference in patients' lives.

Related news

Show more

Follow us